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Monday, October 09, 2006

The Logic of the Glory of the Lord and the Logic of the Market

It occurred to me on Sunday that there is a distinct contrast between the logic of the glory of the Lord and the logic of the glory of the market, that in fact the logics are inverses of each other.

And by 'market', I mean nothing more technical than the sort of consumer-oriented and -driven sort of economics that most of us encounter on a (mostly) daily basis, a product of modern, Western, liberal capitalism, of which one of the hallmarks is a strong statement of individualism.

The logic of the glory of the market looks something like this: You are a subject with needs and desires which are inviolable, the nearest thing to absolute. There are various and sundry means which you may choose to engage as a means of fulfilling your desires/needs, means towards whichever ends you envision for yourself (or no ends in particular).

[If you want to press me on the 'glory' of the market, go ahead; I chose not to spell it out in great detail here, as I wanted to keep this a brief(er) post.]

So the model is: absolute agent --- various means --- any particular end

But the logic of the glory of the Lord (specifically, our participation in it) looks something like this: the glory of the Lord is absolute - beauty, goodness, praiseworthiness, weight and honour which are attractive and worthy in themselves. This glory, though, is active (rather than static) and self-involving, drawing us in to embody, participate in, and spread. There is a deeply trinitarian logic to this process of glory (and glorification), which I will elaborate on at another time (and have elaborated on before).

Rather than being caught within ourselves as absolute and autonomous agents, we are called out beyond ourselves to more - in a process through the Holy Spirit called by one author ecstasy and intimacy - relativising ourselves through various means in service to the truly worthy. This turns the logic of the market on its head, as we are no longer the sovereign subject matching means to ends (the echo of A. MacIntyre is intentional), but ourselves are relativised and even become means for the one end which is truly worthy in itself.

So the logic might be expressed: absolute end (glory) --- various means --- relativised agent.

(I'm sorry, I was able to devise a somewhat clearer, cleverer schema on Sunday, when I did it on the fly -- or perhaps I simply didn't catch that it wasn't as elegant as I fancied.)

In any event, the focus and the process are altogether different, the one focusing on and leading to the sovereign subject, with no fixed end, and the other focusing on and leading to the glory of the Lord (in fact, the Lord), with a fixed end.*

This becoming means is not a call away from the world, the relationships and so forth that comprise our lives -- any more than Christian mystics, properly understood, advocated a withdrawal from the world. I would argue, rather, that this becoming means of God's glory in the world, or more simply, glorifying the Lord with our lives, is the way that we are truly able to engage our lives as who we are and who we are meant to be.


* Sharp-eyed observers might counter that the glory of the Lord is absolute, but might be underdetermined -- or at any rate, not yet fully revealed in time -- and therefore not materially absolute as an end even if formally absolute. I would endorse this distinction, while yet maintaining that being formally absolute is sufficient for my point of contrast. (That is to say, we might not yet fully know the glory of the Lord, not least because it is unfolding in time and we haven't yet seen all time; but we might still be able to say that 'the glory of the Lord' is in fact an absolute, worthy end in itself, even if we do not know fully what that looks like. Sort of like we might say that 'I am riding this train to Birmingham', even if I don't know precisely what Birmingham looks like.)

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4 Comments:

Blogger Marshall said...

Still, this is a good challenge to the "glory" that the market seems to proclaim: "He who dies with the most toys wins."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 2:48:00 AM  
Blogger PdB said...

You're not really describing "the market", capitalism, and "individualism" here as much as you are describing the selfishness and greed of man.

We all need the market; it is a practical reality which does not of itself rob God of his glory. God even uses the market to work out his Providence!

If you're looking for an institution to denounce, you needn't look any further than the condition of sin and the particulars of indulging youthful lusts and epicurean tastes.

But on your overall thesis I agree: the glory of indulgence stands on every point in contrast to the glory of God.

(PS: Blogger doesn't allow caps in our "handles", so my real signature doesn't come across as it ought: PdB. But you can also call me Pamela; I have nothing to hide :P)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 4:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Marshall: Thanks, I'm glad that you saw something coming through! I was trying to do quickly at the end of the day something that probably needed more time. But glad to see you around!

Pamela: Thanks for this, your responses push me to think carefully and for that I am grateful.

The market as we (most of us anyway) currently encounter it specifically holds greed, selfishness, lusts, etc. as virtues, means to the implied end of the market, which is accelerated consumption. "The Market" in its various historical syntheses is not necessarily self-evident or morally neutral: I am arguing by fits and starts that the current constellation of the market is in fact immoral and nihilistic. (Or as General Post once said, it brings out the best in products but the worst in people.)

Of course, 'the market' is a complex phenomenon; I tried to stipulate certain elements in my post that I was referring to: consumer-oriented and -driven sort of economics; liberal capitalism; strong notions of individualism. (What would it look like to have economics oriented towards the glory of the Lord? That was non-capitalistic (but perhaps free market)? That held communitarian goods in a dynamic tension with individual goods? Markets are man-made, and so can be changed -- so why don't we do so?

You're right on in diagnosing sin as being at the heart of the matter, but the sin is not merely individual; it's structural, too. And as we diagnose, to the best of our abilities, individual sins (not least in ourselves) in order to repent and return to the Lord and amend our lives, it is also fit to diagnose them in society as well, hopefully towards the same ends.

And about the name/ blogger thing: thanks. I try to respect people's wishes as much as possible about their identities and let them take the lead. Although of course, I knew that you were our friend Pamela, I wasn't sure that you wanted to be named as such on blogger. (Especially when you're slumming around places like Gower Street! (o: ) But just out of curiosity, what is the lower case 'd' for? (Feel free to e-mail off-blog if you'd like.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 8:03:00 PM  
Blogger PdB said...

The "d" is my middle initial, but it fits so much more stylistically when it's in lowercase, don't you think?

Now, if you're asking what the "d" stands for, I'll let this link do the talking.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 3:41:00 AM  

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