Janet’s Repentance

Ugh.  I didn’t think I would ever dislike another author as much as I dislike James Joyce, and I was correct, but not by much.  The last few chapters of George Eliot’s “Janet’s Repentance” (modified version) actually made up for the first 23.  However, I’m still of the opinion that she could have written the entire story in 10 pages, and still gotten the same message across.

All of that aside, it occurred to me:  there are a couple of things here that would be interesting to look into more:

The Doctrine of Signatures is the belief that the shape/color/texture of a fruit, flower or herb will tell you what something is good for, or for curing. It’s a medieval belief, that continues through to this day, even though it has been proven that that only works for *some* things, not all. However, it was a common belief in Victorian times, so the whole concept of Dempsey taking his mother for a walk among the cucumbers becomes really creepy. On the other hand, Mr. Tryan sits and looks over a cabbage garden, and while it is known that cabbage looks like a head (and has recently been shown to be beneficial for memory), at that point, it was known to be good for consumptive coughs.

The language of flowers is a Victorian invention, and according to George Eliot’s biography, she was quite familiar with both botany and the language of flowers. When Janet was in the throes of depression, sitting in front of a garden with cistus flowers – cistus implies imminent death. The holly at the gate of “Holly Mount” symbolizes domestic happiness.

It would be interesting – at some point when we have nothing else to do, of course – to go through the book and catalog the various flowers and vegetables used to see what Ms. Eliot might be saying through her copious use of those particular descriptions.

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Sermon on Philippians 2:5-11

As you know, over the next few weeks, I’ll be providing some sermons that don’t go along with the liturgy, and I do appreciate your indulgence for my class.  I’ll make sure to post links to reflections that pertain to the liturgy or sermons from Karen on the web site, so you won’t miss out.

Today, we’ll be discussing the passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2, beginning at Verse 5:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.  Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul is pointing out here that Christ emptied himself of his Divine status, of wisdom and power that He could have exercised, in order to lower his status to that of a servant, a slave – the lowest position in society.  He set aside His Divine prerogatives and incarnated Himself as man.  This didn’t deny His deity in any way, but rather, gave us an example that Paul held out to the church at Philippi to emulate.

Now if you’re like me, that’s a really intimidating example.  Christ, in serving mankind, prepared by praying, studying and being baptized.  He healed the sick, fed the hungry and preached the gospel.  He selected people to learn from Him, so that His ministry for God would continue long after He was gone, training them for the day when they would take over for Him.  He gave them clear instructions with the Great Commission, and He had them practice, sending them out two by two, while He was still there to supervise.  Then He sacrificed His very life for entire world, taking our sins onto His shoulders to reconcile them with God and prepare a place for us when we choose to follow Him.

The thing is, if you allow yourself to be completely overwhelmed with Christ’s example, you’ll never be able to follow Him.  But if you choose to follow Him, then start small.  Choose one thing.

For instance, you might choose to prepare yourself, as Christ did, through prayer.  There was a  young man who had gone to Wednesday night Bible Study.[1]  His Pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord’s voice. The young man couldn’t help but wonder, “Does God still speak to people?” After service he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message.  Several people talked about how God had led them in different ways.

It was just after 10:00 when the young man started driving home.  Sitting in his car, he just began to pray, “God, if you still speak to people speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey.

As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought to stop and buy a gallon of milk. He shook his head and said out loud, “God is that you?” He didn’t get a reply and started on toward home. But again, he thought, buy a gallon of milk. The young man thought about Samuel and how he didn’t recognize the voice of God, and how little Samuel ran to Eli.

“Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk.” It didn’t seem like too hard a test of obedience. He could always use the milk. He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home. As he passed 7th Street, he again felt the urge, “Turn down that street.” This is crazy, he thought.  It’s my own mind playing tricks on me, and he drove on past the intersection. Again, he felt that he should turn down 7th Street. At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down 7th. Half jokingly, he said out loud, “Okay, God, I will”.

He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around. He was in a semi-commercial area of town. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst of neighborhoods either. The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed. Again, he sensed something, “Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street.” The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat. “Lord, this is insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going to be mad and I will look stupid.”

Again, he felt like he should go and give the milk. Finally, he opened the door, “Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something but if they don’t answer right away, I am out of here.”  He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man’s voice yelled out, “Who is it? What do you want?”

Then the door opened before the young man could get away. The man was standing there in his jeans and T-shirt. He looked like he just got out of bed. He had a strange look on his face and he didn’t seem too happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep. “What is it?” The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, “Here, I brought this to you.” The man took the milk and rushed down a hallway speaking loudly in Spanish.

Before the young man could leave, from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby. The baby was crying. The man had tears streaming down his face. He began speaking and half-crying, said, “We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn’t have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.” His wife, in the kitchen, yelled out, “I asked him to send an Angel with some. Are you an Angel?”

The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man’s hand. He turned and walked back toward his car and the tears were streaming down his face.  Now he knew that God still answers prayers.

So in that example, there are several things to focus on.  The man made the choice to start listening for God.  He prayed, and then trusted that God was guiding him.  He humbled himself, knowing that he would look like an idiot, but still trusting that God had a plan, and he was the tool God was using to fix this particular problem, whatever it was.

Now there are many ways to serve, but they mostly fall into three main categories.[2]  The example before exemplifies charity – responding to an immediate need or problem.  When the fire burned down the apartment building in town, all of the churches got together and responded to the immediate needs of the tenants.  We, along with the Methodists, provided vouchers for food, temporary housing and gas.  The Baptists used their large spaces to begin gathering and separating clothing and household goods.  Many of the community churches provided transportation for the donations coming in from all over town, and taking people to hospitals to visit those that were injured.  Still others made sure the firefighters were taken care of.

Advocacy, the second way to serve, emerges from charity in that we work and speak on behalf of others with the goal of changing social or political conditions.  The Episcopal Church in Montana has been very active in helping folks get to know people in groups that are typically discriminated against.  We’ve got a problem in some areas of Montana with groups that don’t want “their” kind around.  And in speaking out, the Episcopal Church itself has been targeted, with St. James in Bozeman just last month being vandalized with images of swastikas on their signs and property.  There will be persecution at this level of service, but we have the perfect exemplar who reminds us that the only response worth giving is love.  We all know Roxie and Connie, and apparently the vandals chose a weekend when the deaconate school was meeting.  St. James covered all of the graffiti within an afternoon with pink hearts carrying words of love.  And they recommitted to advocating against racism and bigotry.

The third area of service is justice – working to change systems and processes that create conditions for poverty or limit self-determination.  We all have opportunities to work in this area, depending on what our interests are.  The diocese and the national church have multiple opportunities for volunteers.  You just have to choose what you want to do.

In all things, God provides us with free will.  We don’t have to do anything to improve ourselves, serve our churches, our communities, our nation, or the world as a whole.  But Paul is asking us to follow in Christ’s footsteps, to fulfill our baptismal vows, to forget about status and being embarrassed or thought of as crazy.  He’s asking us to humble ourselves because we love Christ, and to serve God’s creation here on Earth.

That Great Commandment that Christ gave us changes the reason we do things.  Laws of the Old Testament were kept out of duty.  Christ asks that His laws be kept out of love.[3]  And in that love, we provide an example to others.

Aristotle said, “you are what you repeatedly do.”  Service ought to be a habit, not an act.  Rick Rigsby[4], the man who wrote “Lessons From a Third-Grade Dropout”, which I highly recommend, by the way, pointed out that his father left the house every morning at 3:45 to go to his job as a cook.  When his wife asked him why, he said, “Maybe one of my boys will catch me in the act of excellence.”  He wanted his sons to go on in life, and achieve, but to always remember that “you make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego.”

Remember the reason you serve.  Remember Christ’s reason for serving.  And remember God’s promise that because of Christ’s humility and obedience, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Let us pray:  Father, allow me to serve others with a joyful heart; never keeping score; always giving; never expecting to receive. Allow me to give of myself, to give of my talents and of my goods, to give of my time and of my energy, to give of my heart and of my soul. Help me remember to allow others to give to me when I need a helping hand.  Assist me in understanding the needs of others, never criticizing, never demeaning, never scolding, or condemning.  You have been so gracious to me, always loving, always forgiving, always restoring; never gloating over my defeats, even when I have been so wrong.  Father, keep a condemning spirit far from my heart and  further from my lips. Allow me to serve others as You serve, with gentleness, compassion, and tenderness, never diminishing the worth of another, choosing to extend mercy to the brokenhearted, like You have repeatedly shown it to me.  Amen.[5]

[1] http://www.gmu.edu/org/mnu/test1.html

[2] http://sermonsfrommyheart.blogspot.com/2014_09_01_archive.html

[3] https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/gods-kingdom-is-of-servanthood-revd-martin-dale-sermon-on-servanthood-127246

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGyKmiySTv8

[5] https://pushingjesus.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/a-prayer-about-serving-others/

Sermon on Colossians 1:15-20

Each year, I choose projects for me to accomplish, and a few years ago, one of my projects was one that had been close to my heart for a long time.  I’ve been fascinated with monastic life since I was a teenager.  Obviously, I didn’t choose that life, but I have learned over time that one does not have to be within a monastery to make oneself aware of the Divine in all things, even in the smallest detail.  It could be something as simple as sweeping the floor from east to west, acknowledging the path of the sun that God set in motion, focusing on sweeping out not only dirt, but negativity; counting our blessings with each pass of the broom – this is but one example of how to live life aware, even in the mundane.  I’ll go over some suggestions for how you might increase your own awareness of God later in this sermon.  But in the year that I practiced this, I learned a lot.  And with the assignment to write this sermon, I’ve realized that I have a whole lot left to learn.

Colossians 1:15-20 has been described as a creed within itself, as a hymn, or even as Hebrew poetry – which some of you may remember I took a particularly obsessive interest in a few classes ago.  But reading through this passage, my mind kept returning to science, and the nature of energy.

Paul reminds the Colossians:  He, [Christ], is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible.”  Through this, we know that Christ is the cosmic Lord, because He was the cosmic Creator.  Think about this:  we know that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  But He did so through the Word, the very manifestation of Himself that interacts with our human existence.  From John 1 we know that the Word is Christ, so we know that it is Christ who is responsible for everything in existence.

Our scientists will tell you that according to the first law of thermodynamics, energy can neither be created nor destroyed.  And yet, we just heard that all was created through the Word, through Christ, which would mean, that He created energy.  Now for the rest of the universe, that thermodynamic law is still in effect, and energy simply changes form.

In the broad scheme of things, everything in existence is made up of energy, vibrating at the particular rates that make things not only solid, liquid or gas, but the type of each category, like a gold, mercury or helium.  We know that things can exist with more than one vibrational rate – for instance, trees or mammals.  Now, I’m quite certain that my grandson and his dog must be more gaseous than most adults, given how fast they move.  And we’ve all heard that cows are contributing to climate change because of their own gaseous emissions, but that’s a completely different topic.

Turning to how scientists view the world as it interacts with that which we can see, we know that four fundamental forces account for the known phenomena in the universe.  The strongest force exists within the nucleus of – an atom.  You might have heard of one of the components of that force – the Higgs Boson, nicknamed the God particle, because it is something that binds the molecular particles together and these then act as the building blocks of creation.

The other three forces, infinitely weaker in strength include electromagnetism, one that results in radioactive decay, and gravity.  Gravity exerts the weakest force, and yet it shapes much of what we know about the universe.  One might say it creates the arena in which all the other forces “live and move and have [their] being” (Acts 17:28).

Or, as Paul puts it, “in him [meaning Christ] all things hold together.”

So, why is Paul talking about the creation and nature of the universe in his letter to the Colossians?  There are many theories, but one of the most plausible is that there were teachers in Colossae who were marginalizing Christ, focusing on His humanity and losing the “big picture”.  Many were forerunners to Arias, denying Christ’s divinity.  Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians that if we ever forget that Christ is responsible for the very existence of every last thing on earth or in the heavens, we have completely missed the point.  Our adoration, awe and focus should be on Christ.

At the same time, while Jesus wasn’t just born with the advent of His birth to Mary as a human being, He was born to bring about a new creation.  “Through Him, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.”  As the visible face of the unseen God, He created the visible and invisible, setting the frequencies of the energies we interact with.  Being both man and God, He provides a way for us to participate in union with God through him.

But as Paul points out, we must be aware of Christ as God in all things.   If we want to participate in that union with God, we have to respect, no, not just respect – we must hold Christ in awe.  “He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.”

It is through Christ’s sacrifice and manifestation as a human that He has ensured we all have the opportunity to participate in salvation, but we must choose to have faith in that opportunity.  Salvation is not an automatic inclusion.  He is the firstborn, because He shows us the way to God.  He exemplifies how we, as humans, should behave and think.

People don’t often consider how we think.  Many people believe that we have opinions within the privacy of our own homes, while our public faces and opinions are formed to be more socially acceptable in a broader arena.  However, thoughts, despite being invisible creations, are also forms of energy.

What we need to realize is the fallacy that there is a difference between our private and public thoughts, because Jesus is Lord over all.  Choosing to participate in the salvation Christ offers will include choosing, every day, to keep Christ at the forefront of your thoughts, to be aware of Him as the creator of all things.  Now, the Church can help you do that, through prayer, participating in the sacraments, and Bible studies, and certainly being in a place where you are surrounded by reminders of God makes it easier here to be aware of Christ.

But let’s put ourselves back at home.  Think of an argument you’ve had in the recent past.  Take a second, and when you have the one you want, put yourself back in that moment – close your eyes from the beauty around you here if that helps.  Don’t rehash the argument that might have made this a tough day.  Just get that argument pictured clearly in your mind.  (Pause)  Now freeze it.  Start looking slowly at the scene around you.  Where is God?  Look at the other person or people, and think, what might have been able to remind you that they are a child of God?  What thoughts might have been traveling in their mind?  Is there anger involved?  What is the underlying fear that might be causing that anger?  Could you have inserted the peace of Christ into that day?  What could you have done to be aware that Christ was there with you, in your thoughts, in the thoughts of the other people?  Being aware of the one who created everyone there in that moment is not an easy task.

So let’s look at some ways to practice that awareness.  As followers of Jesus Christ we should strive to have homes where Jesus is always welcome and knows that we are choosing to participate in the salvation He offers.

Being aware of Jesus in your home means He would feel comfortable watching what you watch, listening to what you listen to, joining in your conversations and reading your magazines and books.  And as I listed those things, your minds probably went to the most inappropriate things in that list, that you likely wouldn’t have wanted Christ to see.  An awareness of God in all things is not necessarily a comfortable thing initially, but honoring Jesus in your home in this way means that His presence is always taken into account.

Make Him the unseen guest at all times. Some people leave an empty chair at the table to remind them of His presence, and sometimes a physical reminder of His spiritual presence can be helpful.  It can help you choose that salvation that you truly want, by helping you to avoid the temptation to be aware of Christ’s presence to a Sunday thing, done in public only.

Make a practice of meditating on Christ and His Word. Out of sight, out of mind is more than a saying, it is a truth. The more you meditate on Him and His word the more you will be cognizant of His presence with you.

Make a practice of talking with others about Him. One of the ways we honor not only Jesus, but also our own baptismal vows, is to speak to others about Him.  This also helps others to become aware of not only who Christ is, but what He offers to us.

Take a walk with God.  Consciously work on noticing just how the world fits together, how nature works, how the plants grow, the insect interactions with each other and with plants, how the sun shines on everything.  Think about how your body moves with each step, and the marvelous design created for humanity.  Notice the animals around, how they were designed and move.  Think about the complexity of the automobile passing by , and break it down in your mind to its component energy parts.  Know without doubt that Christ was at work there.

We can also ask God to open our spiritual eyes to see where Jesus is in our everyday and commonplace experiences – in our arguments with others, in our joys and sorrows.  God is at work around us, enabling us to participate in the salvation provided by Christ to humanity.  The more sensitive we are to His working, the more we will be aware of opportunities to join in union with Him.

Keeping Christ in mind as the creator of all creation, macro- and micro-cosmic, as well as knowing that He created an opportunity for us to participate in salvation through His own sacrifice, will help us to follow the example that He set.  We have to remember that our salvation is not dependent on what is socially acceptable, but rather what is right in God’s sight.

Let’s pray, remembering that God in the Holy Spirit is with us always.  Breathe into me, O Holy Spirit that all my thoughts may be holy.  Act in me, O Holy Spirit that my work also may be holy.  Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.  Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy.  Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit that I always may be aware of your presence.

Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy’s Influence on Science Fiction

OVERVIEW

Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest authors of science fiction,”[1] has affected science fiction, and contemporary society, in a myriad of ways:  his “Three Laws of Robotics”[2] have sparked ethical debates among scientists and philosophers; he has influenced and consulted with the creators of both Star Trek and Star Wars, undoubtedly two other major science fiction endeavors that inspire current science fact; and he was one of the most prolific authors in existence, writing 40 novels, 382 short stories, and 280+ non-fiction books during his career.[3]  However, his Foundation trilogy, written at the beginning of his career, initially substituted science for religion, demonstrating a disturbing cynical similarity to the Christian narrative.

SCIENCE AS RELIGION

Asimov, raised without religion by orthodox Jewish parents who emigrated from the USSR, has stated:

I tend to ignore religion in my own stories altogether, except when I absolutely have to have it. …and, whenever I bring in a religious motif, that religion is bound to seem vaguely Christian because that is the only religion I know anything about, even though it is not mine. An unsympathetic reader might think that I am “burlesquing” Christianity, but I am not. Then too, it is impossible to write science fiction and really ignore religion.[4]

Hari Seldon, the little seen, but profoundly felt, protagonist in the Foundation trilogy, created a science which combined history, sociology, and mathematical statistics to make general predictions about the future behavior of very large groups of people.  Seldon also gathered the people of the Foundation together “to harbor science and art during the fall of the Galactic Empire. The Foundation grows in power over the years, using trade and religion to control neighboring planets and systems.”[5]

The religion is described in the first book, Foundation:

[A]ll this talk about the Prophet Hari Seldon and how he appointed the Foundation to carry on his commandments that there might some day be a return of the Galactic Paradise:  and how anyone who disobeys his commandments will be destroyed for eternity.[6]

            A much later “Conversation with Isaac Asimov” points out that part of what Asimov used Foundation to show was the struggle between free will and determinism.[7]

Reading the ‘Foundation’ novels, one experiences an overriding sense of the inevitable, of a pervading fatalism.  Everything in the universe is pre-determined.  Unable to change the pre-ordained course of events, man becomes, instead of the agent of history, an object, a ‘pawn’ (using Asimov’s chess metaphor) (citation omitted) in the grip of historical necessity – i.e. of the actualization of Hari Seldon’s calculations.[8]

            This concept of free will, or freedom of choice, is repeatedly overridden by the predictions, and need for the accuracy of the predictions of Hari Seldon in order to shorten humanity’s suffering due to the fall of the civil authority.

Temptation number one, in Foundation and the first half of Foundation and Empire, was to depict vast populations of human beings as stochastic systems without any effective free will. Hari Seldon waved away free will by saying it would cancel out, averaged over a quadrillion people.[9]

Foundation and Empire made this clear in a conversation between a military commander and one of the Foundation traders:

“‘I have already said that the science had nothing to do with individual actions.  It is the vaster background that has been foreseen.”

“And if I exercise my prerogative of freewill?  If I choose to attack next year or not to attack at all?”

“Attack now or never; with a single ship or all the force in the Empire; by military force or economic pressure; by candid declaration of war or by treacherous ambush.  Do whatever you wish in your fullest exercise of freewill.  You will still lose.”

“Because of Hari Seldon’s dead hand?”

“Because of the dead hand of the mathematics of human behavior that can neither be stopped, swerved, nor delayed.”[10]

            The Foundationers, themselves, constitute a “religious” upper class, seemingly taught by Seldon in order to mitigate the suffering caused by the fall of the Empire from 30,000 years to a mere 1,000.  However, Seldon is clear that the science will not track the effects of any one individual or group, but that it will accurately predict the movement of the “mob”.  Unlike the scientific condition described in Newbigin’s work, where:

[T]he scientific tradition as a whole, and the many concepts, classifications of data, and theoretical models which are the working tools of science form as a whole a tradition within which scientists have to dwell in order to do their work…. The progress of science depends, therefore, on the authority of this tradition.[11]

The Foundationers, the scientists of the story, fight to maintain the status quo in order to facilitate Seldon’s predictions of a shorter period of chaos, despite the fact that Seldon has said their individual or even group efforts will have no effect on the final outcome.  There is no effort to develop the science, or to take Seldon’s predictions further within the first two Foundation books.

            “Asimov argued that SF ‘deals with the possible advances in science and with the potential changes – even those damned eternal verities – these may bring about in society.’ (fn. omitted)  These precepts do not square with his novels.”[12]

However, author Jeri Kakela describes how the Foundationers see themselves and their role:

Seldon casts the Foundationers as those “whose destiny it is to save the whole of human civilization. As Seldon repeatedly engages in these crisis-bound conceptualizations of history and future, for the Foundationers his recorded appearances make him a godlike entity behind their national destiny. The Foundationers are thus immersed in ideas of an urgent duty to expand and redeem the rest of the galaxy…”[13]

            For the secular (i.e., non-scientists) among the Foundationers, a distinctly cynical attitude develops toward the scientific “religion”.  The chief trader in religious goods (i.e., nuclear power and technological gadgets) among the galaxy remarks to the Mayor of the Foundation:  “It is remarkable, Hardin, how the religion of science has grabbed hold.  I’ve written an essay on the subject – entirely for my own amusement; it wouldn’t do to have it published.”[14]

Even within a novel where science is the religion, the secular humanistic beliefs of the author shine through, even as the character he creates (a man) allows a religion to develop around his science.

THEOLOGICAL ANALYSIS

Within Foundation, the similarity to the Christian narrative is clear:  ” the Prophet Hari Seldon represents Jesus Christ, the Foundation is organized religion, the commandments are similar to those given to Moses in the old testament, the Earthly paradise is Heaven, and to be destroyed for eternity is the Christian idea of Hell.[15]  As the trilogy progresses, however, it is also clear that:  Hari Seldon is merely a man – a scientific genius – but still, just a man; the Foundation is in the dark as to their true purpose and serves as a front for a Second Foundation about which Seldon told no one; the commandments are only as good as the people are willing to follow and enforce them; and no real concept of heaven or hell, or what the new empire will look like, exists.  All the author has are the theories created through psychohistory, by which it becomes obvious that without a great enough external stimulus, history will continue to repeat itself, ad infinitum.

Interestingly, by the end of the second book, Foundation and Empire, Asimov writes himself out of the rut of repetitive history by introducing a mystical character known as the Mule, which both puts Seldon’s math in disarray, and would parallel with the character of the anti-Christ within Christianity.  Additionally, the Mule will foreshadow what the Second Foundation points to in subsequent novels, Gaia, a planet of beings who use empathic and telepathic abilities benevolently for all of humanity.  This planet is apparently where humanity began, and what they will evolve into, thus bringing the concept of Heaven and heaven on Earth back full circle.

The myth of secularization, whether it be through science or social constructs, is actually shown well within the Foundation trilogy.  Evidence shows “… secularization will not usher in a post-religious era.  Instead, it will repeatedly lead to a resupply of vigorous otherworldly religious organizations by prompting revival.”[16]  In a conversation regarding authors who would build on Asimov’s Foundation series, one potential author commented that the creation of the religion by Seldon would need to be explained:  “I have a line I’m planning for my new book, … ‘It’s clear that you humans, despite all our efforts, are determined to achieve deification; all right, we’ll design one for you.'”[17]

Yet it is not the man-made religion which prevails in the Foundation series, but rather one in which mystical elements, impossible to describe, define or predict through psychohistory, provide humanity with hope for their future, and meaning for their existence.

INFLUENCE OF THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY

Foundation has inspired writers from Douglas Adams to George Lucas, and public figures as varied as Paul Krugman and Newt Gingrich. In 1966, the Foundation Trilogy received the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series, beating out the Lord of the Rings.”[18]  This provides both a large number of science fiction readers as well as the broader range of political, historical and economic audiences who have been exposed to the ideas Asimov sets forth.

Depending upon how far they have read in the Foundation series, it is possible that they have only been exposed to the negative and skeptical aspects of “religion” through the created scientific religion of the first book and a half.  If they have also been exposed to modern trends in “journalism” or “education”, it may have been an influence in turning people away from true religion simply by focusing on the past failures of those who attempt to guide humanity.

The negativity of the Christian past persists in Foundation:

The trader protagonist Hober Mallow’s visit to the tech-man is a good example of this contrast. In Siwenna, a deteriorated old Imperial province, the tech-men have become a hereditary guild that guards its knowledge and admits nobody but other tech-men to the power plants they guard and maintain. The tech-man that Mallow visits is an embodiment of moral and physical deterioration: as a kind of caricature of a corrupt medieval monk, he is “short, and his skin glistened with well-kept plumpness. His hair was a fringe and his skull shone through pinkly. The rings on his fingers were thick and heavy, his clothes were scented, and he was the first man Mallow had met on the planet who hadn’t looked hungry”.  (Foundation, 202)  Mallow soon discovers that the tech-men possess no actual knowledge of the technology they supposedly maintain: “The tech-man shook his head indignantly. ‘[The generators] don’t break down. They never break down. They were built for eternity’” (206).[19]

            Other examples within Foundation show the manipulative nature of the people within the Foundation as they spread their religion and discourage intellectual pursuits:

I started that way at first because the barbarians looked upon our science as a sort of magical sorcery, and it was easiest to get them to accept it on that basis. The priesthood built itself and if we help it along we are only following the line of least resistance.[20]

To the people of Anacreon he was high priest, representative of that foundation which, to those ‘barbarians’ was the acme of mystery and the physical center of this religion they had created– with Hardin’s help– in the last three decades.[21]

The religion– which the Foundation has fostered and encouraged, mind you– is built on strictly authoritarian lines. The priesthood has sole control of the instruments of science we have given Anacreon, but they’ve learned to handle these tools only empirically. They believe in this religion entirely and in the …oh…spiritual value of the power they handle…The Foundation has fostered this delusion assiduously.[22]

            And yet, many scientists find no contradiction between science and religion.  The difficulty can arise when those with scientific knowledge try to discuss theology with people not trained in the sciences – Asimov, himself a doctor of biochemistry, had such difficulties.  The Society of Ordained Scientists summarizes the problem:

In [Arthur] Peacocke’s words:  “Although only a small proportion of the population as a whole have any accurate scientific knowledge, it is science and technology which are creating new attitudes. To people so influenced the language of the Church appears to be not only obscure but obscurantist and, even, dishonest. The clergy are, through no fault of their own, ill-equipped to speak effectively to a scientifically conditioned people, for the proportion of them who have had any scientific education is practically negligible. Thus, the ordained leadership of all the churches contains practically none who understand, from the inside, the chief formative influence in the mind of modern man.”[23]

Like Asimov, however, many scientists do not take the time to communicate with believers who speak the same language of science.  And the public, long used to seeing science as an authority, will often cite science as a reason for their unbelief:

The upshot is a hermeneutics of suspicion; if someone tells you that he or she has converted to unbelief because of science, don’t believe them.  Because what’s usually captured the person is not scientific evidence per se, but the form of science … It is seen as the stance of maturity, of courage, of manliness, over against childish fears and sentimentality.”  (p. 365)  But you can also understand how, on the retelling, the convert to unbelief will want to give the impression that it was the scientific evidence that was doing the work.[24]

            Books like the Foundation trilogy, and authors like Asimov, often use cynical or sarcastic phrasing, undermining their readers’ beliefs and traditions.  Yet Asimov truly did do the research, exploring Christian writings, and finding them lacking.  His depth of research and writing over the course of his life saw him published in nine of the ten Dewey decimal classifications, including a two-volume Biblical commentary.  Knowing this, admirers of his science fiction writing may not bother doing their own research, and simply take his word for the uselessness of religion.

This sums up the question with regard to the Foundation trilogy:

Religion is definitely all over this initial trilogy, although I still struggle to articulate precisely the point Asimov is making. I suppose I might call the message of this trilogy an intensely humanistic one: Even the seemingly unknowable can become known and quantified, and humanity can gain the tools to predict its own future and peer inside its own minds. Of course, there’s still a deeper philosophical question — what’s the point of all this, really?[25]

CONCLUSION

When a well-educated scientist, prolific author and beloved science fiction writer creates a series of books making science the religious focus, it will have an effect on contemporary society.  The Foundation trilogy is full of contradictions that both parallel and exemplify the worst of Christian history.  Because Isaac Asimov is such a well-known name and author, it is inevitable that his opinions and work will influence both authors and readers in their thinking.  As a fan of Asimov myself, my assumptions have always been that he just didn’t get it, but he told a great story.  It would have been interesting to see if the Society of Ordained Scientists (only organized toward the end of Asimov’s life) would have been able to speak the language needed to break through Asimov’s skepticism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Asimov, Isaac.  Foundation.  New York, NY:  Bantam Dell, 1951.

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation and Empire. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 1952.

Asimov, Isaac. Second Foundation. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 1953.

Works Consulted

Asimov, Isaac. 1981. Asimov’s Guide to the Bible : Two Volumes in One, the Old and New Testaments. New York: Wings Books.

Asimov, Isaac. 1981. In the Beginning. 1st ed. New York: Crown.

Asimov, Isaac, and Orson Scott. Card. Gold: the final science fiction collection. New York: Eos, 2003.

Bear, Greg, Gregory Benford, David Brin, and Gary Westfahl. “Building on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: An Eaton Discussion with Joseph D. Miller as Moderator.” Science Fiction Studies 24, no. 1 (1997): 17-32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4240573. p. 2

Brummond, Michel. “Religion in Asimov’s Writings.” Mike Brummond: On a Mission From God. Accessed September 21, 2017. http://www.angelfire.com/wi/mikebru/Alps.html.

Eger, Martin. “A tale of two controversies: dissonance in theory and practice of rationality.” Zygon 23, no. 3 (September 1988): 291-325. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed August 30, 2017)

Elkins, Charles. “Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” Novels: Historical Materialism Distorted Into Cyclical Psycho-History.” Science Fiction Studies, March 1976, 26-36.

Gunn, James. Isaac Asimov: the foundations of science fiction. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Ingersoll, Earl G., Isaac Asimov, Gregory Fitz Gerald, Jack Wolf, Joshua Duberman, and Robert Philmus. “A Conversation with Isaac Asimov.” Science Fiction Studies 14, no. 1 (1987): 68-77. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4239795.

Kakela, Jari. “Enlightened Sense of Wonder? Sublimity and Rationality in Asimov’s Foundation Series.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, March 22, 2011, 171-91.

Kakela, Jeri. “Managing and Manipulating History: Perpetual Urgency in Asimov and Heinlein.” Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research, 2014, 7-22.

Kuklick, Bruce, and Paul A. Carter. “Seldon’s Choice: Variations on a Theme by Asimov.” In Religious advocacy and American history, 190-208. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997.

Pohl, Frederik. “Remembering Isaac Asimov.” World Literature Today, May 1, 2010, 37-38.

Smith, James K. A. How (not) to be secular: reading Charles Taylor. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015.

Strauss, Mark. “What Absolutely Everyone Needs To Know About Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.” We Come From the Future. November 19, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2017. https://io9.gizmodo.com/what-absolutely-everyone-needs-to-know-about-isaac-asim-1660230344.

Wilkins, Josh Wimmer and Alasdair. “Mind games and mysteries abound in Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation.” Io9. May 11, 2011. Accessed September 21, 2017. https://io9.gizmodo.com/5799734/mind-games-and-mysteries-abound-in-isaac-asimovs-second-foundation.

“Foundation and Empire (with Apologies to Isaac Asimov): A Consideration of Hardt and Negri’s Empire.” Social Analysis 46, no. 1 (2002): 167–179.

“History.” Society of Ordained Scientists. May 29, 2014. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://ordainedscientists.wordpress.com/history/.

[1] Cates, Matt. “Greatest Sci-Fi Authors of All Time.” August 13, 2016. Accessed September 18, 2017. https://futurism.media/greatest-sci-fi-authors-of-all-time.

[2] Asimov, Isaac. I, robot. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1950.  P. 40.

[3] A Catalogue of Isaac Asimov’s Books. Accessed September 18, 2017. http://www.asimovonline.com/oldsite/asimov_catalogue.html.

[4] Asimov, Isaac, and Orson Scott. Card. Gold: the final science fiction collection. New York: Eos, 2003. P. 297-302.

[5] Brummond, Michel. “Religion in Asimov’s Writings.” Mike Brummond: On a Mission From God. Accessed September 21, 2017. http://www.angelfire.com/wi/mikebru/Alps.html.

[6] Asimov, Isaac.  Foundation.  New York, NY:  Bantam Dell, 1951.  Pgs. 108-109.

[7] Ingersoll, Earl G., Isaac Asimov, Gregory Fitz Gerald, Jack Wolf, Joshua Duberman, and Robert Philmus. “A Conversation with Isaac Asimov.” Science Fiction Studies 14, no. 1 (1987): p. 70. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4239795.

[8] Elkins, Charles. “Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” Novels: Historical Materialism Distorted Into Cyclical Psycho-History.” Science Fiction Studies, March 1976, p. 31.

[9] Bear, Greg, Gregory Benford, David Brin, and Gary Westfahl. “Building on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: An Eaton Discussion with Joseph D. Miller as Moderator.” Science Fiction Studies 24, no. 1 (1997): p. 2. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4240573.

[10] Asimov, Isaac. Foundation and Empire. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 1952.  P. 26.

[11] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2014. p. 48

[12] Elkins, Charles. “Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” Novels: Historical Materialism Distorted Into Cyclical Psycho-History.” Science Fiction Studies, March 1976, p. 27.

[13] Kakela, Jeri. “Managing and Manipulating History: Perpetual Urgency in Asimov and Heinlein.” Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research, 2014, p. 11.

[14] Asimov, Isaac.  Foundation.  New York, NY:  Bantam Dell, 1951, p. 96.

[15] Brummond, Michel. “Religion in Asimov’s Writings.”

[16] Newbigin, p. 214.

[17] Bear, Greg, Gregory Benford, David Brin, and Gary Westfahl, at p. 8.

[18] Strauss, Mark. “What Absolutely Everyone Needs To Know About Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.” We Come From the Future. November 19, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2017. https://io9.gizmodo.com/what-absolutely-everyone-needs-to-know-about-isaac-asim-1660230344.

[19] Kakela, Jari. “Enlightened Sense of Wonder? Sublimity and Rationality in Asimov’s Foundation Series.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, March 22, 2011, pgs. 177-178.

[20] Asimov, Foundation, pgs. 91-92.

[21] Asimov, Foundation, p. 94.

[22] Asimov, Foundation, p. 112.

[23] “History.” Society of Ordained Scientists. May 29, 2014. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://ordainedscientists.wordpress.com/history/.

[24] Smith, James K. A. How (not) to be secular: reading Charles Taylor. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015. Pgs. 76-77.

[25] Wilkins, Josh Wimmer and Alasdair. “Mind games and mysteries abound in Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation.” Io9. May 11, 2011. Accessed September 21, 2017. https://io9.gizmodo.com/5799734/mind-games-and-mysteries-abound-in-isaac-asimovs-second-foundation.

Catching Up

It appears that my second year of classes are going to be a lot more intense than the first.  I just finished Contemporary Society and the Church, and will post the final paper on here for anyone interested in Isaac Asimov.  This was a very practical class that saw us looking into the various ways that modern technology, ideas and social “revolutions” have affected the church, as well as looking at how other churches do things.

Every couple of weeks we had labor intensive projects which then were written up as papers, which were then discussed by the class.  It started out as a great class, and I continued learning a great deal, but between the changes taking place at Nashotah House and the changes in our professor’s life, he kind of dropped off the radar after the residential week, and other than a one-hour conference call mid-course, we got no feedback from him at all.  So, I’m still not sure how I did in the course.  If it were just the grade, that would be one thing, but it’s the feedback from the professor that’s actually more valuable.  Fortunately, I was working in a group with a Deacon and a former military Presbyterian pastor who turned Anglican, so I did get good feedback from them.

The current class is on Homiletics, or how to write a sermon.  I’m currently exhausted. <g>  And we’ve only had 2 weeks.  Everything was last minute, because the professor didn’t get asked to teach the course until about 3 weeks prior to, which meant we didn’t get book lists or syllabus until about 2 weeks prior, and the amount of work in the residential week was brutal.  Good, informative, completely out of my comfort zone, but excellent stuff – just more than this middle-aged woman is used to dealing with. 🙂  I’ll be posting the sermons I write as I go – there are two thus far, and I’ll have a third by next week (which *should* put me a week ahead in class).  Uploading videos of sermons when you live in the boonies can take several hours to accomplish, so it’s probably good that I’ll be doing things ahead of time.  My upload speed last night was .4 Mps, not counting it becoming overwhelmed and disconnecting, and when you have a 455 MB file, it’s gonna take some time.

I did get to meet the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry – actually got to sit next to him at lunch.  That man has got the energy of a 2-year-old!  While he was raised Episcopalian, he was also raised by a Baptist grandmother, so his style of preaching is definitely much more dramatic than your typical Episcopalian.  Being that the student body at Nashotah is about 80% Anglican, I was interested in the Q&A session he offered to us.  We had submitted questions for consideration, and the acting dean asked the questions.  The responses were really good, and very political – as in, he never actually answered anything controversial.  I am reminded of:

which was fun to watch, but rather disappointing for all that.

So, that’s been the last… 4? months of my life.  I’ll try to get back to posting a bit more regularly.

Some Negative Points

After immersing myself in Mary’s immaculate conception research, I need to write out the points in a positive versus negative manner.  So first, the immaculate conception deals with Mary‘s birth, not Jesus’.  Jesus’ birth refers to the Virgin Birth.  That’s just making sure we’re on the same page here.

  •  Protestants reject the concept of immaculate conception.

There are several reasons listed for that – for Protestants:  lack of Biblical support; lack of uniqueness in Christ being the only being without sin; statements in the Bible which would refute the immaculate conception (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8, Luke 1:47 – one doesn’t need a savior if one is without sin); penal substitution which asserts Christ came to save all, not some; the whole argument between original sin and personal sin, and Christ paying for the former, not the latter.

  • Greek Orthodox also reject the concept of immaculate conception, for a different reason.

For Orthodox, we need to go back to the whole concept of original sin.  In the Western Church, it became defined by St. Augustine as each human being at the moment of conception shares in the guilt of Adam‘s sin of disobedience.  The Orthodox Church has kept alive the original understanding of the early Church as regards “original sin.” The early Church did not understand “original sin” as having anything to do with transmitted guilt but with transmitted mortality. Because Adam sinned, all humanity shares not in his guilt but in the same punishment (death).  Because of this, there was no need for an immaculate conception, as Mary would only suffer from personal sin, as do all men, but not original sin, which the Orthodox do not believe we share in; they believe only that we share in the punishment because we are all mortal.

Now, while Catholics would have us believe that Mary never sinned (personal sin), the Bible showed times when she both doubted and had pride, so that kinda shoots that argument in the foot.

Immaculate Conception is seen by the Orthodox as separating the Mother of God from the rest of the human race. If true, this would have made it impossible for Christ to become truly man, because Mary would therefore not be subject to the same conditions of humanity as those for whom Christ had become incarnate in order to save. Mary is human, and through her, God became fully human as well.

And it’s that last argument which makes the most sense to me.  God became man in order to experience life as a man, to be born and live without sin, so that He could take the sins of all humanity upon Himself and provide that perfect sacrifice.

So, next time, I’ll start getting into why the immaculate conception does make sense.  Because there is quite a bit to recommend it as being accurate.  In a very logical way – which is part of what convinces me that it is a doctrine of man and not of God.

Timing

I got to thinking about the timing of the doctrine of immaculate conception, and it occurred to me I should call my son – history and religious buff – to see what he thought about it.  We learned and supposed quite a few things.

First, the doctrine of the immaculate conception was proclaimed doctrine in 1854 through a papal bull, ex cathedra – meaning that it incorporated the infallibility of the Pope through his connection to the Holy Spirit as God’s representative here on Earth.  Interestingly, that very same infallibility was only tradition until the Vatican I council in 1869.  At that point, it was made doctrine.  The only other papal bull declared doctrine in 1950 was also about Mary, concerning her bodily Assumption into heaven.  There haven’t been any others.  That, all by itself, is interesting.

But I was wondering about the timing of the doctrine.  The Second Great Awakening had been occurring in the first half of the 19th century, so Protestantism was again on the rise.  The Millerites and Baha’is had just passed the 1844 time for the return of Christ.  The Crimean War was being fought; the Franciscans (supported by the French, who at that time headed up the Holy Roman Empire) were in favor of the doctrine, while the Dominicans were not.  What made the Pope decide that now was the time to establish this as infallible doctrine?

Immaculate Conception – Eisegesis or Exegesis?

The question may actually be, were things written about the immaculate conception of Mary initially to help prove Christ’s divinity?  How much of that is eisegesis rather than exegesis, particularly in light of the papal bull in 1854? Prophecy can’t be perceived until it’s already happened, and then, are we really looking at the context in which a prophecy has been made, or are we practicing eisegesis to prove our point?

Was Augustine correct when he said, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed”? Are the two books of the Bible so interrelated, or is it that we are interpreting the old through the lens of the new, rather than through the lens of when it was written? Was it written to only be interpreted one way? Or are both correct?

Part of me wants to say that if Pope Pius IX was so moved as to issue a papal bull in the mid 19th century, then God’s saying both are correct. How much of that is being the good little Catholic? <g>

I discovered in writing my last paper that probably a good half of it came from my blog entries, so I’m going to continue the practice.  Next time will concern prophecies in general, and their relation to eisegesis/exegesis.

Personification?

My classmate is in the process of finishing up his paper, and it occurred to me when I read over it that I didn’t include in mine what might be a rather important aspect of the nature of evil.  The problem, I guess, is that I don’t know if it’s a real, created being – Satan – or if it’s a personification of the evil created by man – rather like we use Mother Nature to personify anything occurring in the natural world.  If it’s a created being, then obviously God created him.  So the question is, as a created being, did he make choices that then led him to be the one who tests and tempts mankind?  Is he truly evil, or is he doing the work of God – rather like the story of Job, where temptations and torment were the test of the day?

Now there are a couple of reasons for how I look at things.  The first is a story I read long ago about Lucifer, the “morning star” or “bearer of light”, the angel who was the most favored of God because he loved God so very much.  And when God told the angels that they were to worship and obey Christ in the same way, Lucifer could not see that Christ was God, but only that God was telling him to love someone else as much.  He refused, declaring that his love was only for God, no one else, and God, angry at being disobeyed, thrust him out of heaven.  I have to imagine that if this is the case, he has to understand now that God and Christ are one and the same being, and now he helps mankind to grow in knowledge (arguing my own POV) through providing the evil choices as a penance for disobeying God.

The other reason that I look at “Satan” as being a personification as opposed to a real being is that I look at hell differently.  I think that hell is the distance we put between ourselves and God, and we can throughout our life be closer to hell than to heaven, when we stop listening to God through the Holy Spirit, when we think that we know better, or when we worship at the idols of money or electronics or my personal downfall – information.

So, not to include the personification of evil in my study of the nature of evil was likely a mistake.  And of course, the paper is long turned in.  So, it goes here.

Immaculate Conception

So I decided my next paper will be on the immaculate conception.  Interestingly enough, this is not about the birth of Christ, but rather about the birth of Mary without original sin.  It is doctrine within the Catholic church, per a Papal Bull released by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, but it was considered accurate theology since the mid-2nd century by quite a large number of people.

While some of the basis of the theory comes from the Apocryphal Gospel of St. James, there are interesting arguments in favor of the sinless nature of Mary (as well as interesting arguments against it) from the time of her conception which offer their roots within the Old Testament.

Arguments in favor:

Mary is full of grace:  past, present and future, having been gifted with the grace at the time of her own conception.

Mary is the “new Eve” having enmity with Satan:  Gen 3:15 says “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”  In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.

Mary is the ark of the New Covenant:  In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation (11:19-12:2) “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.”  The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.  The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.

Arguments against:

Mary is full of grace; grace is only provided to sinners.

Mary’s spirit rejoices in God her savior; God saved Mary from the sins of arrogance and pride; salvation (rescue) is for sinners.

Mary is considered the ark of the new covenant; as a created being, Mary is subject to corruption and sin, just as the ark was.

Arguments for an argumentative paper:

Here’s where I get stuck.  The two main arguments are either she was conceived without sin, lived a sinless life, and had Christ – which brings up things like the predestination/free will argument; or she was a normal woman, conceived in the normal way, who was chosen by God as the vessel through whom He would be born and have a human nature.  Lots has been written about both points of view – generally Catholic on one side and Protestant on the other, although there are also Islamic arguments for a sinless nature and Orthodox arguments against a sinless nature.  What exactly am I going to be arguing about that hasn’t already been said?