Let It Ebb and Flow

“Another serious and very common mistake is in the effort to maintain uniform energy throughout a discourse . . . In highly passionate speaking there must be variety, alteration” (Broadus, Preparation and Delivery, p. 378).

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

“So if there is a biblically defensible liturgy coupled with biblically indefensible lives, this is a routine maneuver by sinful men to try to put God into their debt by doing just what He told them to, as though it were a paint-by-numbers kit. And since that is how the sinful heart of man loves to think, in Scripture God takes their paint-by-numbers kit out of their hands, and pitches it away from Him in holy disgust. They are bewildered because He was the one who ordained it in the first place. And so Jesus said to them, ‘Go and find out what this means . . .’” (Against the Church, p. 149).

No Theological Schadenfreude

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #158

Charity “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

In this verse, we see that love does four things. Two of them are active, and two are responsive. In the middle of Paul’s thought, love believes all things and it hopes all things. This faith and this hope operate in tandem. “Believes all things” does not refer to gullibility, but rather refers to a non-cynical attitude. Love wants it to go in a positive direction, and does not want a crash so that it may indulge in a little theological schadenfreude, watching the triumph of total depravity once more.

It is striking that this is not a rose-colored glasses thing because this same charity bears all things, and endures all things. Love puts up with a lot, but does not do so in a way that makes it stop believing all things and hoping all things. This means that the “bearing” and the “enduring” are not done while muttering under the breath. The faith and hope are carrying a load, and the carrying of the load is not done in a way as to become grievous.

Pardon My French

Apparently in response to my engagement with him, Gary North has written a bit more on classical Christian education. He was already down in a hole with his very own shovel, and instead of heeding the adage to — when in such circumstances — stop digging, he decided to hire a backhoe.

My first response was titled North Heads South. This follow-up could be labeled — I will have to work up something — as North Heads Souther, or Almost to the Equator Now.

Let me say at the top that someone with North’s ostensible concerns could easily offer an intellectually honest (and helpful) version of his critique of the classical Christian school movement. It would go something like this:

“I understand that the founders and promoters of classical Christian education are trying to establish a distinctively Christian approach to education. I know that they have repeatedly rejected the idea of syncretism, and have also rejected the idea that we can in any way accommodate the destructive elements of paganism. They have certainly stated that our participation in the ‘great conversation’ should be as preachers of the gospel and proclaimers of God’s holy law, and not as dialogue partners. I know they mean well by all this, but here is why I believe the content of their curriculum will necessarily overwhelm their stated intentions . . .”

That would be a respectable critique directed toward any part of the classical Christian school movement, and there are some parts of the movement where I would actually agree with the critique.Take the Dative

But in order to say something like this, North would have to know what our stated intentions have been. He would have to know the literature of the movement, and nothing is more apparent than that he knows nothing of the kind. He can’t tip his hat to all the arguments, qualifications, exhortations, and admonitions we have made on this topic, for the excellent reason that he assumes we must not have made them. When it comes to what we actually teach and say, if ignorance is bliss, then North has almost achieved Arahant Enlightenment. If Nirvana were not knowing anything about this particular subject, North is floating down an endless river in a rowboat, at night, in a fog, in a coma.

“What is palmed off as trivium-based education today is classical paganism to the core,” “But this is not the sales pitch . . .” “But this is not how Latin is being peddled to naive homeschool mothers.” “We never read about the importance of learning the medieval Church fathers” (emphasis mine). Notice the confidence, not just about the merits of Latin or not, but rather about how we are promoting the work we do. We never say, according to North, the kinds of things that we are actually saying all the time. If bombast were pearls, and ignorance the thread, North has written an article that the Duchess of Windsor would not be embarrassed to wear.

Down Heaven’s Alleys

The Bible uses the word mystery in a particular way, it allows us to use it in another way, and forbids us to use it in a third. So everybody be careful out there! For those keeping track, this is a follow-up on my post about mystery and contradiction.

First, how is mystery used? In Scripture, mystery refers to a purpose of God that was once latent and hidden, but is later manifested and revealed. The great Pauline mystery, with the word used in this sense, was the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God.

“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words . . . That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:3,6).

Another mystery revealed is the fact that this process of growing the church will culminate in the resurrection of the dead. What once was obscure is now plainly taught and revealed.

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51).

Of course, keep in mind the clarity of such statements will be made even more clear, marvelously clear, when the final reality pointed to by the statements comes to pass. The fact of the coming resurrection is plainly taught to us now — Paul says “I show you a mystery” –  but the day is coming when God Himself will show us the mystery, and the graves will open.

A four-sided triangle, with A having a stipulated value of 2.

A four-sided triangle, with A having a stipulated value of 2.

The second use, the allowable use, would have to do with things that are simply beyond us. Here we are using the word mystery in a way similar to the way the Bible uses it, and merely extended by analogy. God will always be infinite, and we will always be finite. As we spend our everlasting days going further up and further in, after every bend in the road, we will always be confronted with another whoa moment. And it will never get old.

All the Little Clickdevils

Not envious, just observant.

Not envious, just observant.

So I want to begin with an odd remembrance, an isolated lesson that got into my head for inexplicable reasons. I think our family first got a television when I was in the eighth grade or thereabouts. I believe this episode happened sometime before that because it was something I saw on somebody else’s set. It was in black and white, and I only saw a few minutes of it, and it was some Elvis movie. The gist of the clip was that whoever Elvis was being in that movie had made it big in whatever it was he was doing, and it had gone to his head, and somebody, not sure who, could have been a pretty girl and it could have been a surly uncle or it could have been somebody else, was letting him have it. How dast he forget his roots? Only they didn’t say dast.

Since that time, that small flickering image has represented for me the peculiar horror of taking God’s blessings for granted. Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked. And as Cotton Mather said, faithfulness begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother. The sheer ingratitude of taking blessings for our birthright due is the perennial temptation, and I have hated the prospect of getting beyond myself since I was a boy. A brief one word prayer that I recommend highly is don’tletmescrewitupamen.

Renunciation therefore has to lie at the heart of all Christian living, in every era, for every class, in every nation. It is necessary for every man, every woman, every child. But renunciation is not a game for simpletons, and this is why we have to take care to navigate between those like Demas, who love the world, and those who think that they can rid themselves of the world by crawling into a very small corner of it. The first group says renunciation remunciation, and the second group exalts the idea of renunciation in order to renounce all the wrong things, or the right things in the wrong way. The first group embraces the bling and the second group embraces the fling. Bling it on or fling it away. The first puffs out like an archbishop on parade with an umbrella drink and the second gets constant allergy panels done in search of more things to surrender to their Killjoy Zeus. With any luck we will discover our kids are all allergic to water and sunshine, and so must now spend their play times under their beds.

William James was the one who defined success as a bitch goddess, and the description, as far as it goes, is apt. But she is a persistent bitch goddess, and she will find you wherever you go. If segments from your life regularly show up at fail.com, she will be at your elbow, taunting you and provoking you to envy. Success ensnares many people who don’t have any. Mammon doesn’t have be in your wallet to have you by the throat. But if you retreat to Nepal to meditate in a cave, having renounced Facebook and all its little clickdevils, you will discover a certain smug pride in have renounced more, or sooner, or better, or more successfully, than the guy in the next cave. And if you pursue success straight up, then she becomes your deep interior decorator, lining the walls of your soul with mammon, or terminal degrees, or trophies, or trophy wives, or academic respectability, or a man cave with the full ESPN package. In short, you can run but you can’t hide.

When the Bricks Start to Fall

It is worthy noting that the Lord Jesus describes one of the features of hypocrisy as being manifested in an inability to read the culture.

“Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:56).

A hypocrite does not know what is coming down because it does not suit him to know what is coming down. It is always handy to say, when things are comparatively calm, “well, that’s not my interpretation.”

But this simply reveals the narcissism of our age — as though our interpretations were in any way authoritative! Yes, yes, we know your interpretation, but is it correct?

When God shakes down a culture, He does it so that the things that cannot be shaken may remain (Heb. 12:27). This means that when the earthquake starts, and the bricks start to fall out of the building you are in, you have a moral responsibility to know where the shelters are.

True shelters are those congregations of God’s people that are not hypocritical, where the Word is faithfully proclaimed (not just taught), where the sacraments are faithfully administered, where discipline is faithfully practiced. In fact, it would be a good idea to start attending such shelters now.

Call it disaster preparedness.