Creativity as Deifying: An Extract from My Thesis Part I

David Russell Mosley

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Lent
3 April 2014
On the Edge of Elfland Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Inspired by this post from Artur Rosman, ‘John Paul II, the Artist in You, and Coleridge’, I thought I would share a portion of my thesis on a related topic. This extract comes from my fourth chapter which focuses on the Christian life in light of the Ascension and the Indwelling and how deification continues and grows in us during this time. The portion I want to share is a bit long, so I’ll be sharing it in parts. Please, let me know what you think.

Sub-Creation

I want now to turn my attention to human creativity and the role it plays in the life of redemption and deification. John Milbank has suggested in Beyond Secular Order, that the human creatures is a fictioning creature, that is, a creature who shapes and re-shapes the nature around them, ‘Likewise, they are as animals fictioning creatures, or in other terms cultural and historical creatures, whose very nature is artificially to question and reshape (though not thereby to destroy) this nature.’1 This is based, for Milbank first in the Incarnation’s ability to re-shape history, ‘If the Incarnation permitted a reshaping of the world, then it was to be expected that time would bring forth beneficial innovations, including technological ones, in which the Holy Spirit was at work through human hands.’2 Note how Milbank argues that if the Incarnation has reshaped the world then as a result of this reshaping (a reorientation of humanity in a general sense towards its end) the Spirit, who is given in one sense to all humanity and in another to Christians in a particular way, will be active in bringing about additions to creation, or new parts to the Poem. This is all even further based in the notion that culture and creativity are themselves gifts and deifying participations in the divine creativity:

The ‘cultural supplement’ to which our purely animal natural reason is already, through our ‘trans-naturality’, obscurely drawn by the lure of the supernatural implanted within us, simply is, as revealed in the light of the Incarnation, the supplement of grace, the beginning of the work of deification which is always (as Sergei Bulgakov saw, through his eastern appropriation of western experience) the work of a further participation in divine creativity.3

Thus, for Milbank, culture is a gift and our participation in culture is an aspect of our deification. For this reason, the rest of this chapter will look specifically at the work of George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis for modern examples of what Tolkien would come to call sub-creation, as a kind of sub- poetical contribution to the Poem which in turn contributes to our becoming Theo- poems.

Participation in the Poem

Humans, then, are to play a role as poets, participating in the Poet and in a real, but qualified sense, adding to the Poem. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has written, ‘Our highest vocation as human persons is to reproduce on earth, so far as this is possible for us, the movement of mutual love that passes eternally between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’4 What God is, which is what we participate in and are in the image of, we are to recreate, re-poetise here on earth. George MacDonald, writing on the importance of imagination, writes, ‘man may, if he pleases, invent a little world of his own, with its own laws; for there is that in him which delights in calling up new forms–which is the closest, perhaps, he can come to creation.’5 These worlds which we can create, however, must hold to the moral law (one of the only laws in Elfland, as Chesterton told us above). To do otherwise is to inherently create inconsistent world. Again, MacDonald writes, ‘In the moral world it is different [from the physical]: there a man may clothe in new forms, and for this employ his imagination freely, but he must invent nothing. He may not, for any purpose, turn its laws upside down. He must not meddle with the relations of live souls. The laws of the spirit of man must hold, alike in this world and in any world he may invent.’6 For MacDonald the moral world can be recast in new clothes, but it cannot change its substance.

If we can, as I have already suggested, in some ways equate poetry and fantasy, or at least poetry and Faerie, which all have to do with creation, then this human activity is immanently important to theology and philosophy. Josef Pieper, writes:

poetry and philosophy are more closely related to one another than any of the sciences to philosophy: both, equally, are aimed, as one might say, at wonder (and wonder does not occur in the workaday world)––and this by virtue of the power of transcending the everyday world, a power common to poetry and philosophy.7

Note that Pieper equates poetry with a world beyond the workaday. His own point here is that a utilitarian world misunderstands the point of both philosophy and poetry. These are searches for wonder. Tolkien, writing about Fairy-stories, says, ‘Fairy-stories were plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability. If they awakened desire, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded.’8 This desire which is awakened is akin to the wonder that Pieper writes about, or even the joy that haunted Lewis in his pre-Christian days.9 Therefore it is necessary here to discuss fantasy and its implications in our deification.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

1 John Milbank, Beyond Secular Order: The Representation of Being and the Representation of the People (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013), 220.

2 Ibid., 218.

3 Ibid., 213.

4 Kallistos Ware,  ‘The Holy Trinity: Model for Personhood-in-relation,’ in The Trinity and an Entan- gled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology, ed. John Polkinghorne (Cam- bridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 113.

5 George MacDonald, ‘The Fantastic Imagination,’ in The Complete Fairy Tales, ed. by U. C. Knoepflmacher (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 5-6.

6 Ibid., 6.

7 Josef Pieper, Leisure The Basis of Culture, trans. by Alexander Dru (London: Faber and Faber, 1952), 95.

8 J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘Tree and Leaf,’ in The Tolkien Reader (New York: The Ballantine Publishing Company, 1966), 63.

9 See C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Orlando: Harcourt Inc., 1955).

A Life Update: Ordination News, Thesis Update, and Babies

David Russell Mosley

 

22 October 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

I thought it was necessary to do another life update as we’ve announced a few things recently and there are a few others I simply haven’t written about.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Lauren and I are now in the midst of the discernment process for me to be ordained in the Church of England. This past Monday we had our first meeting with the DDO (the Diocesan Director of Ordinands). She was absolutely lovely, and it went really well so far as I can tell. She simply wanted to get to know Lauren and I and understand why we think this is the direction God is calling us. We’ll have a few more meetings and hopefully get me into a Diocesan Panel by February so I can go on to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel in time to get the funding necessary to begin the training in September of 2014. If this is where God’s calling us, it’s all going to happen rather quickly. This is both terrifying and exciting.  One of the things Sue did mention is me doing a placement (following a vicar around for a little while) in order to ensure I know what various congregations are like in the Church of England. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this at the parish church in Beeston since Lauren and I don’t drive. Prayers on this front are most definitely appreciated.

One of the other major things we have going on this academic year is, of course, my thesis. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but this will the last year of my PhD. I am now in what is called the write up or Thesis Pending Period. Essentially what this means is I get fewer meetings with my supervisors, and have to be done by the end of next September (that’s right the same one I’d start my training in if all goes towards ordination), or else! I have half of my thesis written and plan to have the other half done by no later than May so I can spend the summer editing and getting it ready for submission. Prayers are also certainly appreciated on this front as well.

The final, and perhaps biggest news we have, as well as another reason for me needing to have the thesis written by May, is that Lauren and I are pregnant. Yes, technically she’s the only one who is actually growing a human child, but as its my child too, and we’re one flesh, I think I can say that we are pregnant.Image We are absolutely ecstatic about this! Having kids has been one of our biggest dreams since before we even got married. I’m sure there will be many more baby posts to come in the future, but for now I will say this: Lauren is doing well; we’re intentionally not finding out the gender; and our little one is due on 24 May 2014 (our sixth anniversary).

These are all the main things going on in right now in the Mosley Family (UK). Otherwise life is going on as usual. We’re getting stuck-in as the British would say, in our new church, and finally making some British friends. I hope you all are well. Look out for my next posts on Creation, food, and more.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

‘The Evolution of Adam’ by Peter Enns: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

26 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam. I hope you enjoy.

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Peter Enns seeks to evidence that in the Christian tradition, we do not need a historical Adam and Eve, that is, that our theology will not rise or fall on Adam and Eve’s existence or lack thereof. Enns first begins by discussing the changes geology and evolution caused in modern thinking about the age and construction of the world. He then goes on to note how biblical scholars began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to notice that books such as Genesis seemed to be compilations of various sources. Enns then shifts to discuss how early Israel seems to have understood and used Genesis and how Paul used the OT scriptures in general and Adam in specific. Essentially, Enns suggests that while Adam is treated as historical for Paul, more significantly, Adam is a theological example of the plights of humanity, sin and death. Enns does not suggest that we replace theology/Scripture with evolution, but that we must recognise that the two speak different languages and must be synthesised.

While I generally agree with many of Enns conclusions about Genesis and evolution, I have several issues with this book. His almost naive acceptance of modern biblical, historical-critical method of interpretation aside, Enns spends no time on two issues that seem rather important from his conclusions. First, Enns suggests that all we really need to know is that sin and death are problems for humans and we need ask no further. Enns completely ignores the question of evil and his approach would almost suggest that God created humanity as sinful, or that sinfulness naturally arises in humanity, which comes to the same thing. The second issue Enns ignores is how the tradition understood/understands Genesis and Adam and Eve. For that matter, chronologically speaking, Enns ignores what the Gospel writers have to say on the issue. One could perhaps forgive Enns for ignoring the early and medieval theologians as outside his purview since the subtitle says ‘What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins’. Although Enns does make fleeting reference to the reformers. However, one cannot forgive Enns for promising in the title to tell us what the Bible does and does not say about this topic and then focus only on the Old Testament Scriptures and Paul. Admittedly, Adam only appears in two other places and seems to have less theological import than in Paul, but to ignore them entirely seems negligible.

In the end, I would recommend this book for those interested in learning more about this topic, but more so would I recommend reading Conor Cunningham’s Darwin’s Pious Idea and Peter Bouteneff’s Beginnings.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

‘The Ancestral Sin’ by John S. Romanides: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

19 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of The Ancestral Sin by John S. Romanides. Hope you appreciate it.

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This book is a primarily unhelpful polemic from start to finish. Romanides main point seems to be to show how the West is woefully wrong concerning sin and death (sinfully wrong, perhaps) and how the East contains only the right vision. Romanides argues that the West’s understanding of created grace, evil as privation of the good, the analogia entis in Thomas, and God being love, good, etc. in his nature all lead to notions of original sin. The East, instead, sources evil and death in Satan, rather than in God (as he understands the West to do), and God is primarily free in his essence while attributes such as love are uncreated energies.

There are too many problems with this characterisation to go into here, but the one major problem I want to point out is this: Romanides desperately wants to make it clear that God did not create death as a punishment, that instead death is the dominion of the devil who is at war with God. The problem? Did not God create the devil? Is the devil capable of creating from nothing like God? Is this how God is not responsible for death? If so, then we fall into dualism, which Romanides would repudiate.

While in many ways I agree that we need to think of sin, death, and the Fall in ways other than original sin and man’s fall from perfection, Romanides’ attempt at this is inept and often glosses over areas where Eastern Fathers, whom he cites elsewhere often coincide with Western positions he repudiates. Chief among these would be how Athanasius writes about evil, what the Cappadocians write about the soul, and how Maximus understands the human desire for the supernatural.

I neither recommend this book nor don’t. Read at your own risk.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Thesis Extracts: Why We Need a Deifier

 David Russell Mosley

 

1 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here’s another extract from my second chapter on Deification Creation. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to leave comments below:

English: The Nativity of Christ

English: The Nativity of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Need for a Deifier

What is left, in the end, is a created order that is good, that has an end which is God, and which it cannot achieve on its own. The universe needs humanity to fulfil its end in God, for without humanity, there is no one to receive creation as a gift and to mediate between creation and God as recipients. In humanity, then, there is the given vocation of serving as icons and priests to the rest of creation, showing forth the attributes of God. However, even though humanity has an innate desire for the divine, for divinity, for God, but this mad desire, as de Lubac calls it, cannot be met or fulfilled by humanity. The desire may be natural, but its fulfilment must be super- natural. Creation needs a deifier, one alongside of whom it can work. As Vladimir Lossky writes, ‘Certainly man was created by the will of God alone; but he cannot be deified by it alone. A single will for creation, but two for deification. A single will to raise up the image but two to make the image into a likeness.’1 God can create in his image, but cannot make man a god, according to Lossky. Instead, man must also will this. Lossky will go on to argue that humanity, prior to the Fall, may have been able to deify itself.2 In fact, in commenting on the Fall, Lossky seems to suggest that hu- manity would have enacted its own deification which would have made bridgeable to the gap between Creator and creature: ‘The infinite distance between the created and uncreated, the natural separation of man from God which ought to have been overcome by deification became an impassable abyss for man after he willed himself into a new state, that of sin and death, which was near a state of non-being.’3 This, how- ever, seems unlikely given both Scripture and the Fathers. Instead, it seems more likely that God requires our cooperation in order to deify us. That is, even though humanity wills to be like God and God wills it for them, the two wills must work together. So far I agree with Lossky. However, it seems that more than this is necessary in order to deify.

It cannot be emphasised enough that deification is the intended end for crea- tion from the very beginning. As Andrew Louth writes, ‘[D]eification is the fulfil- ment of creation, not just the rectification of the Fall.’4 Elizabeth Theokritoff simi- larly writes, ‘The Incarnation is not primarily a remedy for something gone wrong; it inaugurates the union between God and his creation for which all things were created.’5 It would be wrong to picture deification as merely a response to human- ity’s sin. It is not simply the resolving of this issue, though it is that, it goes beyond, it is the intended goal for creation from the very beginning. This is not, however, a goal creation can complete on it is own.

Creation Incomplete on Its Own

Maximus has reminded us that created beings cannot reach their own ends. They cannot fulfil themselves.6 Even any deathlessness humanity may have possessed in the story of the garden was not by nature. Aquinas tells us that it was by grace ‘that man was deathless before sin happened’ (ST 1a. 76, 5, ad 1). Adam, while without sin and incorruption, was still subject to becoming.7 Just as creation was in- complete without humanity, incapable of attaining its own end, so too is humanity incomplete without a deifier, without someone to raise him up to the status of divinity by participation, by grace, by adoption. Anthony Baker again reminds us, ‘Perfection is God’s gift to creation––the gift, in fact, of creating––and in sharing this creative work the divine nature opens itself entirely to creatures, extending to us the gift of our true and ultimate telos.’8 This gift, however, must be received and even then, it must be given. And while it is partially given in the act of creation itself, even this is not enough. Creation is still incomplete for it is not perfected. As I argued above, creation is incomplete without humanity, but humanity as well cannot bring about its own end, it cannot complete itself. Something much more surprising must happen. If God were truly the divine watchmaker or deism, then it would stand to reason that the telling of time (the end for which a watch is made) would occur naturally and re- quire only maintenance, but not divine aid in reaching its end, it would have been created at its end, that is the moment it started telling time it would have accomplished its end. This, however, is not the understanding of creation or its end the Father’s had. Instead, it seems that something more is needed for creation to reach its telos.

Creator Must Cross the Creature-Creature Divide

‘Christ assumed an individual and concrete nature that was in no wise “the” human nature as such. Yet what is more, by means of this partial contact, he touched nature in its entirety, a nature that is indivisible and continuous. And by this vital unity, he transmits grace, resurrection, and divinization to the entire body, thus uniting all mean, and through them, all creation to himself.’

-Hans Urs von Balthasar 9

What Balthasar notes in the quote above perhaps takes us beyond the purview of this chapter, but necessarily so. As I argued above, creation is incomplete without humanity, but humanity too is incomplete on its own. The only way creation’s telos can be completed is if the creator crosses the divide that separates him from creation. Only in this manner can deification reach to all of creation. Just as humanity takes within itself all of creation, so Christ by becoming man takes on all of creation and unites to it his divinity. More on this, however, in chapter 4. De Lubac writes concerning Augustine:

[Augustine] also realized the great gulf in any circumstances between the creation and Creator, and the madness of the creature’s dream, inspired by the Creator, to raise himself up to him for everlasting union. And in the revelation of Jesus Christ what he could see was principally the declaration that this mad dream could become a reality because it corresponded to the entirely gratuitous plan governing creation.10

We have noted this before, but it bares repeating, while humanity desires its proper end, it cannot accomplish it for its proper end is well beyond what it could even dare to hope for, union with God. The entire second chapter of Balthasar’s A Theological Anthropology is dedicated to the notion that humanity cannot perfect itself.11 Again, as Thunberg writes concerning Maximus, there is a gulf between humanity and God which only the ‘will of God can overbridge.’12 This is explicitly not something humanity can accomplish on its own.

1 Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, translated by Ian and Ihita Kesarcodi-Watson (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), 73.

2 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. members of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (London: James Clarke and Co., LTD., 1957), 136.

3 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. members of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (London: James Clarke and Co., LTD., 1957), 135.

4 Andrew Louth, ‘The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,’ in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Tradition, edited by Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 34-35.

5 Elizabeth Theokritoff, ‘Creator and creature,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, edited by Mary B. Cunningham and Elizabeth Theokritoff (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- sity Press, 2008), 69.

6 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 132.

7 Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, 2nd Edition (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1995), 144.

8 Anthony D. Baker, Diagonal Advance: Perfection in Christian Theology (SCM Press, 2011), 141.

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9 Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Presence and Thought: An Essay on the Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa, translated by Mark Sebanc (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 134-35.

10 Henri de Lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology, translated by Lancelot Sheppard. (New York: Crossroads Publishing, 2000), 17.

11 Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Theological Anthropology, trans. by Benziger Verlag (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967), 43-72.

12 Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confes- sor, 2nd Edition (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1995), 51.

 

Sincerely yours,
David

‘We Are Being Transformed’: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

Festival of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Companions of Our Lord
29 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my brief review of We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul’s Soteriology by M. David Litwa:

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A generally awful book written under the guise of neutrality and objectivity. Litwa is unconcerned with reading Paul as Paul intended to be read. He also, haphazardly, will refer to non-Christian, non-Jewish, and non-canonical documents to prove his points when the canons (Old Testament Scriptures and New Testament Scriptures) would exclude many of his points. Leaving aside the validity of the canon(s) itself (themselves), one still should have to contend with why these and other documents are not included and that the included documents form the basis for orthodoxy within the communities. Finally, Litwa treats pagan and semi-Jewish texts up to the third century CE, but makes only scant reference to patristic authors (only when their statements minus context and consideration help his argument) even though he admits that their chronological proximity to Paul means they are probably better interpreters of his word.

All-in-all, even though this book defends deification in Paul, something I am personally interested in, the route it takes to get there is, in my opinion, unacceptable.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Thesis Extract: ‘The Role of Humanity in Creation’

 David Russell Mosley

Commemoration of Bridget of Sweden, Abbess of Vadstena, 1373
23 July 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is another brief extract from the second chapter of my thesis on Creation and deification. I hope you enjoy.

The Role of Humanity in Creation

Creation of Eve

This brings us to role and place of humanity in creation. We will discuss more fully in the section below humanity being made in the image and likeness of God and how nascent humanity was both to serve as priest and to await its deifier. Here, however, we should look at the priestly role of humanity from creation’s point of view. That is, that creation is incomplete without humanity.

John Paul II writes, ‘So the very sacramentality of creation, the sacramentality of the world was revealed in a way, in man created in the image of God.’1 The world is revealed, in a sense to itself, in humanity. Since in creation, only humanity can accept creation as a gift, it is clear that humanity completes, in a qualified sense, creation. If we accept that God creates in order to deify, in order to return all things into himself, as argued above, then we must ask how this is to take place. For Maximus, it takes place through humanity’s interconnectivity and kinship to all creation:

For humanity clearly has this power of naturally uniting at the mean point of each division since it is related to the extremities of each division in its own parts. Through that capacity it can come to be the way of fulfilment of what is divided and be openly instituted in itself as the great mystery of the divine purpose. It proceeds harmoniously to each of the extremities in the things that are, from what is close at hand to what is remote, from what is worse to what is better, lifting up to God and fully accomplishing union. For this reason the human person was introduced last among beings, as a kind of natural bond mediating between the universal poles through their proper parts, and leading into unity in itself those things that are naturally apart from one another by a great interval.(Amb. 41.1305B-C).

What Maximus is arguing is that humans by being both material and spiritual have within them an aspect of every part of creation. This allows humanity to serve as a bridge between the material and the spiritual. A bridge that will unite the two realms, allowing all to return to God. Maximus goes on to say that the way Humanity effects this union by shaking off hindrances (like sexual difference) and seeks union with the undivided God. This unifies heaven and earth in the human person (Amb. 41.1305 C- D). Then, by attaining angelic knowledge humans unite the intellectual and the sensible (Amb. 41.1308A). Finally,

And finally, beyond all these, the human person unites the created nature with the uncreated through love (O the wonder of God’s love for human beings!), showing them to be one and the same through the possession of grace, the whole [creation] wholly interpenetrated by God, and become completely whatever God is, save at the level of being, and receiving to itself the whole of God himself, and acquiring as a kind of prize for its ascent to God the most unique God himself, as the end of movement of everything that moves toward it, and the firm unmoved rest of everything that is carried towards it, being the undetermined and infinite limit and definition of every definition and law and ordinance, of reason and mind and nature (Amb. 41.1308 B-C).

Thus, the human person in one sense deifies creation through its own deification. Just as Christ’s having deified his humanity reached through to all humanity,2 so that deification reaches to all creation, ‘except to the level of being.’ ‘[B]y being divinized, the world is perfected as world.’3 We have begun to encroach on an important aspect here, however, that I will deal with more fully below and in the fourth chapter. For now, however, note that just as creation, if its end is a return to God, cannot effect that end on its own without humanity, so too, humanity cannot affect that change on its own.

 

1 John Paul II, The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1997), 76.

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2 Gregory of Nazianzus Theological Oration  30.21.

3 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 257.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley