Tetelestai for Good

David Russell Mosley

12341061_631531005684_6186885703667676992_n

Advent
12 December 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, I’m behind on sharing this news by a few days, but for those who don’t already know: I am completely done with my PhD! In many ways I still can’t believe. In other ways, this is an unbelievably underwhelming time for me. It’s difficult to get too excited since everything has happened while I’ve been physically removed from the University of Nottingham (where I did my PhD).

Last time I wrote you was right after I had passed my Viva. Since then, I had to resubmit my thesis with all the necessary corrections in October. I found out in mid-November that my corrections had been accepted. I was overjoyed at that news. There was a not-so-small part of me that worried I had not done enough, but evidently I had, for Rev. Dr. Alison Milbank (my internal examiner) emailed me a few days before the official word, telling me that she was happy to pass my thesis with the corrections I had made. Once I got the official word I had to get my thesis printed and bound and submitted to the appropriate people at the University. That was slightly difficult to manage from the States, but in the end it got done and I graduated, in absentia, on 8 December 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

As I said, I am overjoyed, but it has been a strange process. In a way, it has been a bit like becoming a husband or a father for me. That is, it is something that comes on gradually with new complexities at each stage. When does one become a father, after all? Is it when you find out your wife is pregnant? Is it when the baby is born? Or what about becoming a husband, after all, the process starts when you begin dating your spouse and changes once you become engaged, and changes again during the wedding ceremony, and changes once again on your wedding night. Becoming a doctor has been something like that. Was I a doctor when I passed my viva? Or when my corrections were accepted? Or when I graduated? And let’s not forget all the writing that went on before that, like dating before marriage, or having sex before conception. Becoming a doctor, of course, is not exactly the same as becoming a father or a husband, but the process, the gradualness of slowly passing stages that further your steps toward the end goal, that is the same.

Whatever the case, I am, unequivocally, and irrevocably, Dr. David Russell Mosley. I thank you all for your support, for your love, prayers, and interest during this process and while I wrote this blog, occasionally updating you on what I was doing toward getting my doctorate.

A final piece of news: As you already know, I am publishing a work of fiction with Wipf and Stock Publishers.
I am also pleased to announce, though this has been the case for some time, that I will also be publishing my thesis12304154_908706462544609_6750187958427026235_o, Being Deified: Poetry and Fantasy on the Path to God, with Fortress Press in their Emerging Scholars series.

In light of all this good news, I could still use your prayers. I am still applying for jobs, teaching theology at the undergraduate and/or graduate level(s), but have not landed one yet. Please pray that one of the jobs I have already applied for, or, if not one of those, then one I will apply for in the near future, will come through and that I will be employed at an academic institution for the 2016/2017 school year. This is, perhaps, ambitious as many of my colleagues from Nottingham and elsewhere who have finished before me are still looking for work. Nevertheless, I pray for it for myself and for them and I ask that you do the same. In the mean time, I will continue to apply for jobs, write letters to you all here, and attempt to move forward with some new research topics. Until next time I remain,

Sincerely yours,
Dr. David Russell Mosley

Advertisements

Tetelestai, for now

David Russell Mosley

20150527_143509_resized

Ordinary Time
30 May 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve finally submitted my thesis, titled: Being Deified: Poetry and Fantasy on the Path to God. It’s gone off to my examiners who will read it and then I will have to go back to the UK to defend it on 20 July. I can’t believe I’m almost done. Whatever happens at my viva, I will be done with my PhD within the next 12 months. I can’t believe it, I really cannot. In honour of my finished thesis, I thought I would put up my old posts on writing this beast. It’s gone through many iterations, permutations, and transfigurations, but now, it’s almost done.

A Brief Theology of Poetry and Fantasy: A Thesis Extract

Moving Countries, Cancer, Thesis Updates, and New Letters

It Is Finished: A Thesis Draft Done on Good Friday

Creativity as Deifying: An Extract from My Thesis Part I

Creativity as Deifying: On Fairy Stories, Part II

Thesis Extracts: Why We Need a Deifier

Thesis Extract: ‘The Role of Humanity in Creation’

Thesis Extract: ‘Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways as Evidence of Deification’

Thesis Extract: ‘The Four Aspects of Deification’

The Evolution of the Thesis: Why It’s Alright to Change Your Topic

Shifting Thesis Topics (Again)

Deification: A Brief Explanation of My Topic of Study

What am I Doing? Deification, John Cassian, and My Path to a PhD

Sincerely yours,
David

Dragons, Theses, and Life in the States

David Russell Mosley

Ordinary Time
St Edward’s Day
13 October 2014
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

I just wanted to give everyone a quick life update. As I mentioned a while back, my second-son (born a whole minute later than his elder brother) was diagnosed with cancer. Well, I am pleased to announce that the tumour, what we have been calling the dragon, is gone. I honestly don’t know all the details yet. We only recently found out and have not seen our new oncologist since she called to tell us the news. You can read more about that here.

We also found out today that Edwyn can have his line removed. When Edwyn was diagnosed with neuroblastoma he had a line put in so they could administer his drugs, draw his blood, and more without having to stick him full of needles. Well, today we were told that it can not only come out, but it can come out on Wednesday! We are very grateful for all the prayers and support we have received during Edwyn’s battle with the dragon.

In other news, my wife, children, and I have returned to the States. We made this decision when we found out we were having twins and it became more important, though delayed slightly, when Edwyn was diagnosed. We wanted to be around family. We wanted to make sure our families got to see them and spend time with them. So, we’ve moved in with my grandmother-in-law and are trying to sort out new lives in the USA. We miss England terribly, but we’re glad to be able to see friends and family we haven’t seen in three years.

Those who know that I’m working on my PhD in theology at the University of Nottingham may be wondering what impact this has had on it. Well, I was supposed to finish and submit my thesis by the end of last month. That, obviously, was not going to be possible. Thankfully, through the dedicated ministrations of one of my supervisors, and the head of the Theology Department, I have an extension until the end of May. I’m hoping to be done by the end of March, but am having a hard time getting back into the groove of things, especially without a home office or university office to work at. Plus, having twins means I’ve been needed at home a bit more, especially with the cancer stuff. However, I am slowly, but surely, getting back to work.

In the mean time, to help me get back into a theological and writing (and editing) frame of mind, I’m going to be trying harder to blog more, so look out for more posts from me. I don’t know about you (those of you who write) but I find that writing anything helps me get in the mood for writing, making working on my thesis even easier.

I’ve also begun looking for jobs to apply to for next year. In academia, at least in the States, most jobs are posted in the Fall the year before their start date. I’ve got some leads, but nothing definite yet. Prayers (or advice, or jobs) are very welcome.

In summary, the Mosleys are doing very well (even my wife has gotten back to blogging), I’m beginning to work again, and most importantly, the dragon is dead.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

It Is Finished: A Thesis Draft Done on Good Friday

David Russell Mosley

 

Good Friday 2014
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

I have several other posts up my sleeves for the next few days (assuming I can make myself write them), but today I wanted to give you a very simple update. I have, after nearly three years, finished a draft of my thesis!

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 14.04.33

There is still much to do: fixing footnotes, adding extra sources, polishing the bibliography, fixing transitions, and making sure the whole thing fits together, writing the preface. However, all of that pales in comparison to the work of actually writing the whole thing! It is an enormous weight off of my shoulders as I now await the soon arrival of my two sons. I can think of no better way to prepare for Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, than by finishing a major task. Without meaning to seem crass, I too can shout, tentatively, tetelestai; it is finished, for now. Or perhaps as Niggle might say, it’s finished, but not finished with.

As Easter is coming, and I cannot guarantee that my revelry in having finished a draft of thesis will leave me time for the letters I hoped to write between now and then, let me leave you with the excellent ending to Dante’s Paradiso, which also serves as the conclusion of my final chapter:

In the deep bright
essence of that exalted Light, three circles
appeared to me; they had three different colors,
but all of them were of the same dimension;
one circle seemed reflected by the second,
as rainbow is by rainbow, and the third
seemed fire breathed equally by those two circles.
How incomplete is speech, how weak, when set
against my thought! And this, to what I saw
is such––to call it little is too much.
Eternal Light, You only dwell within
Yourself, and only You know You; Self-knowing,
Self-known, You love and smile upon Yourself!
That circle––which, begotten so, appeared
in You as light reflected––when my eyes
had watched it with attention for some time,
within itself and colored like itself,
to me seemed painted with our effigy,
so that my sight was set on it completely.
As the geometer intently seeks
to square the circle, but he cannot reach,
through thought on thought, the principle he needs,
so I searched that strange sight: I wished to see
the way in which our human effigy
suited the circle and found place in it––
and my own wings were far too weak for that.
But then my mind was struck by light that flashed
and, with this light, received what it had asked.
Here force failed my high fantasy; but my
desire and will were moved already––like
a wheel revolving uniformly––by
the Love that moves the sun and the other stars (Paradiso XXXIII.114-145).

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Hand-written Notes: How I do Research (A Post for Matt Moser)

David Russell Mosley

 

My Desk at Home

My Old Desk Set Up at Home

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

Dear Friends and Family,

Matt Moser, who blogs over at Christ & University, has asked that I write a letter on how I use my research journal. I thought I would oblige.

Truth be told, I stole this idea (of using a research journal) from a colleague here at Nottingham, though we use them slightly differently. Initially, my reasons for using a hand-written research journal were romantic as well as quasi-neo-luddite. Essentially, I worry sometimes about the effects the impermanence of the digital might have on us individually and corporately, but that is a letter for another day.

Here’s a rather narcissistic 16 minute long video I did on the subject. NB, I know longer use quite that many journals/notebooks:

Still, for nearly three years now, I’ve been taking primarily hand-written notes for my now nearly complete doctoral thesis, so at the very least this has worked for me. So here’s what I do:

The Notebook

IMG_1007

Since living here in the UK and having a Ryman’s nearby, I have favoured the Ryman’s A5 Ruled Notebook with 384 pages. I dedicate the first fifteen pages or so for a preface. From there I number the pages 1-approx. 369 and start using it.

The Pen

Frankly, I tend to use whatever I have on hand, but always ink, never pencil. The reason for this is again one of permanence. Pencil is too quick to fade, or be erased, ink lasts. For the most part I favour a fountain pen my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. Otherwise, I prefer fine-point pens, typically black.

The Use

IMG_1008

With the pen and notebook in hand, the only thing left to do is write in it. I’ve a few different methods for note-taking, but what I have found works best is underlining in books I own and using tabs or post=its in one I don’t. As I’m reading, I’ll underline or mark what I want to write down. Then, once I’m done with the book (or as I’m reading it, depending on my mood), I sit down to evaluate what I’ve underlined/marked and write down the important stuff in the notebook. Sometimes, if what I want from the book is too long to write down in one sitting, I’ll just note what is on the page in a few words.

Here’s how a note-taking session tends to work for me. Wherever I’ve left off previously, I write down the date, so I know when I interacted with the text. Then, if I’m starting a new book, I write out a full bibliographic entry for the text with an asterisk to the lefthand side, noting that I’ve started a new entry. Starting with the first page on which I’ve underlined/marked something worth noting, I start writing out the quotations/notes. If it’s modern book, I write down the page number first followed by the quotation. If it’s an ancient text or the Bible, I write the abbreviation for the text followed by book and paragraph number or chapter and verse. Then I just keep writing until I’ve got down everything I want.

As I add new books, I try to make sure to write down the title and the page number on which I’ve started the book in my journal in the Table of Contents, though I’m not very good at keeping up with.

The key for all of this, however, is that I then type up the notes in a word document where the pages of the word document match up to the pages of the journal (for cross-referencing and spell-checking purposes). This might seem laborious, but it does three things I find really helpful. First, it solidifies the information in my head. Reading the text, then rereading it to write it out by hand only to reread it again in order to type it out, helps me keep a better handle on what I’ve got when it comes time to write. Second, when I finally get around to indexing my journals, having a digital copy will really come in handy. However, perhaps the most useful part of typing it out is it makes my notes much easier to use when I write. Rather than following the exact same referencing system as my journal, I use the digital copy to get a head start on footnotes. Rather than beginning each quotation or note with the page number, I end it with a properly formatted footnote. This way, when I go to put my notes in an outline or in the text I’m writing, I can simply copy and paste and hey presto! I have footnotes that only either need to be shortened or changed to ibid. (assuming I don’t have to change styles completely, but even then it’s typically not too hard).

Alongside eventually making indices, I also hope to put together a continuous digital copy. Rather than splitting pages based on the hardcopy, splitting them wherever the text would naturally split based on what’s written.

Anyway, this is how I do it. How do you take notes for your research (if you’re lucky or unlucky enough––depending on perception––to have to do research?

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

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

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.

page4image21384

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