(urth) Wolfean theologies

John Watkins john.watkins04 at gmail.com
Wed Feb 4 09:43:23 PST 2009

On Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 12:39 PM, Son of Witz <sonofwitz at butcherbaker.org>wrote:

> This is all very interesting.
> I don't understand how there can be only one interpretation of Christ,
> especially argued by Catholics, who are considered Heretics by the oldest,
> most traditional and unchanged Christian Church, The Eastern Orthodox.

Catholics are, I believe, considered schismatics, not heretics, by the

> And even then, Christ's Divinity is EXEGESIS.  It's in the Creed, and it's
> the Catholics that changed the creed and caused the Great Schism.
> I don't need to argue it any more though. Severian is as Christ as it gets
> in New Sun. if that helps me understand it, fine. If one needs to call him
> Christ Like in deference to dear Jesus, fine.  The line from Wolfe outside
> of BotNS that means the most to me is that he wanted to explore the
> "implications of his faith"  We're supposed to pick up the cross and become
> Christ-like.  Mystic Hermetic Cosmic Christians would say you have to become
> CHRIST. not "like" him.  And between Severian and Horn, you've got two
> characters who BECAME the myth that inspired and motivated them. talk about
> exploring the implications of some cosmic event on a personal level.
> This is beautiful stuff here, and hair splitting between Christ &
> Christ-like is sorta off the mark. It's only exegesis.  For me, the text
> renders a sort of temporary divinity to him. but in my view, everyone is
> always also divine, and Severian just got a real glimpse of it as he was
> used, by the hand of God, at a much higher level than most of us are.  But I
> think one of the most major points I get from reading between the lines on
> Jesus's story is that we're all crucified on the crossroads between base &
> divine.
> ~SonOfWitz
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: Craig Brewer [mailto:cnbrewer at yahoo.com]
> >Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 08:12 AM
> >To: 'The Urth Mailing List'
> >Subject: Re: (urth) Wolfean theologies
> >
> >Catholicism makes all of this a bit tricky, too. Catholicism, of course,
> immediately brings up questions of orthodoxy vs. whatever. It's easy to
> assume that since Wolfe is Catholic, his beliefs are orthodox. It's also
> easy to assume that since he's comfortable sharing his personal beliefs,
> that his fictions all ultimately match those beliefs. But to go from
> Catholic orthodoxy straight to interpretation misses two important
> mediators: fiction and the author.
> >
> >My questions are always: why must an author's fiction necessarily match
> their personal beliefs? Couldn't their fiction explore alternatives, express
> doubts, raise questions, etc.? (With Wolfe, I'm always curious how an
> engineer might reconceptualize Catholic theology in a completely mechanical
> way...I see points where Wolfe toys with these ideas that, to me, aren't
> heretical but certainly aren't orthodox, either.) And just because Wolfe is
> Catholic, can we assume he's an orthodox Catholic? There's an interview
> where he discussed converting to Catholicism,* saying that he didn't read a
> lot of theology but read Chesterton and other Catholic writers. The
> interview also suggests that he might (and this is of course reading between
> the lines) have rationalized himself into Catholicism rather than simply
> accepting it whole cloth in one swoop. (Although what his attitude is now
> might be incredibly different.) Furthermore, he wrote the books at different
> times
> > during his life when his relationship to his faith might have changed. In
> other words, turning to orthodox theology as a way to interpret the fiction
> seems to miss a few steps. The point is that knowing a few general things
> about Wolfe's general relation to Catholic orthodoxy in general never tells
> us much about specifics.
> >
> >I'm also never comfortable talking about an author's intentions. An author
> can, of course, misunderstand him/herself. (Look at the later PKDick, for
> example...an extreme one since he was losing his mind, but it still
> applies.) Or maybe an author failed to communicate as he wanted? Or maybe
> the story was more complex than they intended? You don't have to be a raging
> postmodernist to recognize that writing and story-telling, no matter how
> well crafted, are media -- at once communicating but also a barrier between
> writer-as-person and reader-as-person. (That insight is at least as old as
> Plato.) While that never means that "anything goes" in interpretation, it
> also means that authorial intention is only one factor.
> >
> >Of course Wolfe's religion informs his fiction. You have to be blind not
> to see that. But it takes textual argument to connect an author's personal
> beliefs to the words/story in a substantial way. There's never a necessary
> connection. When interpreters get into discussions about theology or
> mythology, I'm always skeptical when they want to suggest that because a
> source puts something one way, Wolfe must as well. Instead, I'm almost most
> interested in how the details of the text relate to the source material and
> what they change. After all, isn't that the entire point of the Brown Book:
> Nothing is ever completely different, but nothing is ever completely the
> same when filtered through time/culture/writing.
> >
> >
> >
> >*"About his conversion, Wolfe says: "I was raised in a
> >rather lax fashion as a Presbyterian. I don't think my
> >father had any particular religious convictions. My
> >mother had been raised as a Presbyterian and so I was
> >nominally a Presbyterian. It was largely an answer to
> >give when people asked you. . . . I married a Roman
> >Catholic and had to take instruction in it in order that
> >we could have a Catholic wedding I became interested
> >in it, read and studied, and talked to people about
> >it and so forth, and eventually converted. . . . I didn't
> >read a lot of theology.... I read Chesterton's book on
> >St. Thomas Aquinas . . . and ended up reading everything
> >of Chesterton's that I could find. I had gone
> >through very much the same thing earlier with C.S.
> >Lewis.""
> >
> >(Quoted in John Farrel's "The Distant Suns of Gene Wolfe," First Things: A
> Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life; Apr2007 Issue 172, p28.)
> >
> >
> >
> >----- Original Message ----
> >From: David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net>
> >To: urth at lists.urth.net
> >Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 9:12:28 AM
> >Subject: (urth) Wolfean theologies
> >
> >Perhaps, but I don't see the relevance, or rather the parallels, to the
> discussion. Following your understanding of these terms, one must always
> call the Catholic christ-interpretation "Christ" and the "heretical"
> christ-interpretations "Christ-like." This is or would be patently absurd
> and useless and irrelevant, and I object. Feel free to adopt that
> convention, but recognize that it is merely a convention.
> >None of this affects what Wolfe believes or how that affects
> interpretation---only how such data are asserted.
> >
> >I am indeed arguing for a broader field of potential interpretations than
> some here seem comfortable with. But I have not argued what you have said.
> To repeat myself, this has as much to do with forum etiquette as anything
> else. I don't mind arguments from theology. I object to arguments from
> authority rather than logic---as I have very clearly stated.
> >
> >------------------------------
> >
> >Message: 2
> >Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 23:55:57 +0000
> >From: Chris P <rasputin_ at hotmail.com>
> >Subject: Re: (urth) Urth Digest, Vol 53, Issue 59
> >To: <urth at lists.urth.net>
> >Message-ID: <BLU120-W45CA15F795D84A37E7C3B386C20 at phx.gbl>
> >Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> >
> >
> >There is wiggle-room for interpretation, but generally interpretation is
> supposed to stay close to the original intention of the speaker or at least
> not contradict it without absolute necessity. This may sound nitpicky but
> without it you get "radical" interpretation where everything can mean
> anything you want at any time.
> >
> >I could basically use the same form of argument you used there to say that
> well, to me in my belief system, calling someone "Christ" or "Christ-like"
> is the same as saying that they are Richard Nixon. Thus you can't argue that
> my interpretation of BotNS as a retelling of the Watergate story without
> privileging an interpretation based on Wolfe's religious beliefs, right?
> >
> >-- "When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is
> about to set." -- Lin Yutang
> >
> >
> >
> >---
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