Sunday, November 8, 2009

I did not do preemptive penance for this post


Jewish date:  21 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Ḥayye-Sarah).

Today’s holidays:  Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Synaxis of the Archangels (Greek Orthodox Christianity).

Worthy causes of the day:  “Establish Presidential War Powers Commission - The Petition Site” and “ Political Action: No Reward for Blocking Health Care”.

Today’s topic:  Chapters 3-13 of The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3) by Philip Pullman.  The theology of this imaginary multiverse keeps getting further and further away from Christianity.  Standard Christian theology depicts God as consisting of three persons:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  This is not something obscure or esoteric; this is something well-known.  So far there has not been no hint of a Trinity, Jesus, the Crucifixion, or the Gospels.  The only distinctively Christian idea which gets any real play is original sin, and that Pullman completely botches.  Positive aspects of Christianity, such as salvation, grace, and forgiveness, are conveniently ignored, as these might paint the Magisterium/Church in a positive light.

What Pullman comes up with for a theology is very un-Christian.  As noted previously, the Authority is not a true god, but rather an angel pretending to be a god.  The Authority has retired from personal involvement in the worlds, and he has retired to a “crystal chamber” to concentrate on philosophy and left the administration to the angel Metatron, who is seeking to crack down on misbehavior in every world.  Metatron is transparently based on the angel of Jewish and Christian tradition Miṭṭaṭron, sometimes identified as “the lesser YHWH”, as having formerly been Ḥanokh (Enoch), and has being YHWH’s right-hand man (so to speak).  This two-tiered hierarchy of the Authority and Metatron strikes me as perhaps a bit Gnostic, but this may be reading into the text something which was never there.

As far as behavior is concerned, Pullman also invented the perversely illogical doctrine of preemptive absolution, which is that one can do penance in advance for sins one has not yet committed.  The dramatic reason for this is so Pullman can have the Church rationalize trying to kill Lyra.  This doctrine may be a warped version of indulgence.  But while an indulgence is meant to be a gift from the Church, preemptive absolution for a sin never negates the fact that a sin is being done deliberately.  This perverts the notion of penance.  Penance is supposed to be about feeling bad about doing something wrong and trying to get beyond repeating it.  Doing penance with the intention of doing the sin in the future is a contradiction.  I am not aware of the Roman Catholic Church ever practicing or condoning such hypocrisy.

Also:  According to Pullman, angels can be killed.  And they can be gay.  This sounds nothing like angels in Judaism or Christianity.  There is also an afterlife, but it seems to be a dreary, boring place, neither the Christian Heaven nor Hell.



P.S.:  Somehow I am expecting that when the Authority finally appears on-screen that he will form a Trinity with two hand puppets, but even this is may be expecting too much from Pullman.