A Synod of Owls

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Once a great synod of Reformed owls gathered together for a confabulation of their wits, to wit, putting their brains together to solve a problem that had long roiled the world of owley Reformedness. Now, in that last sentence, I must confess that I was sorely tempted to write, “of their wits, to wit, to woo.” But that would have been overly clever and arch, if you know what I mean.

At any rate, the owls were assembled in solemn congress to determine if apple trees produced apples because they were apple trees, or if apple tree status was logically distinct, sealed off in a separate ontological category, although everyone acknowledged that apples did keep showing up somehow. One party stoutly maintained that in order to protect the majesty of sovereign grace the apple trees had to be incapable of producing apples, and that the apples must be seen as having an independent point of origin. Perhaps the orchard fairies came in the night and hung them there. Or something.

The others, the party in the minority,thought that there had to be a tight organic connection between apple-tree-ness and the apples.

One of these owls, a large fluffy one named Warmfeather, concluded an impassioned speech on the subject by saying that such a connection was most necessary, although he admitted that he could not explain scientifically or mathematically how this all worked. “On such matters,” he quietly said, “we must be intellectually humble. After all, we are only birds with brains the size of a walnut.”

Around the great parliament hall, hisses and murmurs went up. “Papist! Pelagian!” “Rotarian!” taunted one owl, who had a brain the size of a significantly smaller walnut.

Warmfeather rocked back and forth sideways until he recovered both his perch and his composure. But from the far side of the hall, the moderator of this august assembly slowly approached him, and his mitre with the embroidered figure of John Knox on it was slightly askew. Stopping and pausing for dramatic effect, he then coughed up the skeleton of a dead mouse at Warmfeather’s feet. Warmfeather looked at it sadly, for in the very small world of Reformed owls, this had only one possible meaning. Warmfeather would never again be a conference speaker at that big oak tree three fields over.

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