Neither Reasonable nor Candid

November 29th, 2007

“Subtle and firm” was C.S. Lewis’ view of Jane Austen as a moralist. Apart from being the Empress of English, Austen is a beautifully lucid observer of human psychology.

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility [of Marianne]

Elinor had not needed this to be assured of the injustice to which her sister was often led in her opinion of others by the irritable refinement of her own mind, and the too-great importance placed by her on the delicacies of a strong sensibility and the graces of a polished manner. Like half the rest of the world, if more than half there be that are clever and good, Marianne, with excellent abilities and an excellent disposition, was neither reasonable nor candid. She expected from other people the same opinions and feelings as her own, and she judged of their motives by the immediate effect of their actions on herself. Thus a circumstance occurred while the sisters were together in their own room after breakfast which sank the heart of Mrs. Jennings still lower in her estimation; because, through her own weakness, it chanced to prove a source of fresh pain to herself, though Mrs. Jennings were governed in it by an impulse of the utmost goodwill.

Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 2, Chapter 5, p. 118

In the absence of felt need of deliverance from sin, we can understand, how Rabbinic tradition found no place for the priestly office of the Messiah, and how even His claims to be the Prophet of His people are almost entirely overshadowed by His appearance as their King and Deliverer. This, indeed, was the ever-present want, pressing the more heavily as Israel’s national sufferings seemed almost inexplicable, while they contrasted so sharply with the glory expected by the Rabbis. Whence these sufferings? From sin (Men. 53b)—national sin; the idolatry of former times (Gitt. 7a); the prevalence of crimes and vices; the dereliction of God’s ordinances (Gitt. 88a); the neglect of instruction, of study, and of proper practice of His Law; and, in later days, the love of money and party strife. But the seventy years’ captivity had ceased, why not the present dispersion? Because hypocrisy had been added to all other sins (Yoma 9b); because there had not been proper repentance (Jer. Yoma 1.1); because of the half-heartedness of the Jewish proselytes; because of improper marriages, and other evil customs (Nidd. 13b); and because of the gross dissoluteness of certain cities (Yoma 19b).

This sounds oddly familiar.


November 23rd, 2007

There are days when you’re ashamed to be a Christian because you’re so evil.  And there are days when you’re ashamed to admit you’re a Christian because of how evil other Christians are.

Of course, Christianity is for evil people: it is about how God justifies the ungodly.  It is not about how the ungodly justify themselves.  And that is why it is not so much even the evil committed by Christians, as that evil self-righteously practiced in the name of Christianity that really nauseates you.  All Christians are sinners; but Christians ought to be people who admit their sinfulness and don’t seek for excuses.  If we look for forgiveness (as we do) then we can’t simultaneously look for ways to excuse or justify ourselves.  And we certainly can’t call our evil good and boast in our non-existent righteousness and claim God’s vindication.

Thank God that our allegiance to Christianity is not because of other Christians: individualistic as this may sound, it is because of Christ.  If it depended on other Christians, I would apostasize: if it depended on me, I would apostasize yesterday.  But Christ gives me no reason to depart from Him; Christ gives me no reason to behave in any way inconsistent with His perfection.

Sin, in ourselves or in others, is not a reason to depart from Christ: He is the Saviour of sinners.  But it is the fact that He is the saviour of sinners which should make us willing to admit that we are sinners.  It is the truth that God is both just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus that should make us most unwilling to justify ourselves.  The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is still in Scripture: and the word of Jesus still stands.  The man who craved mercy, acknowledging his sins, went home justified: the man who praised God for his own righteousness, who compared himself favorably to others, went home unjustified.

I understand that this is not the whole of Scriptural revelation: I understand that there is a legal and a societal innocence which gives you a platform from which to protest real injustice.

But I understand this too: that mud slinging and scandal mongering and rumor circulating and character assassination is behaviour logically inconsistent with the system of doctrine taught in Scripture (and summarized in the Westminster Standards).  When it boils right down to it, there are two charges we can throw around, which will stick to almost anybody.  The first is truly universal, and it is hard to think of anything worse to say: “You are a sinner”.  But the second reaches a greater depth still: “You trust that you are righteous and despise others” (Luke 18:9).  The man who confesses and forsakes his sins finds mercy: it is the one who covers it, whether with outright concealment, with excuses, with spurious justifications, who does not prosper.

And so to the TRs and the FVists, whose contentions of today made me think about this, and perhaps even to the smugly aloof from the current ecclesiastical dustup, a word: The fact that your opponent is wrong doesn’t mean that you are right.

Perception and Reality

November 21st, 2007

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Donald E. Carr points out that the sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain: “This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is.”

A Zingy Quote

November 13th, 2007

Whatever one may think of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named of the Reformed world, one has to admit that he is one of the most quotable of living (although I guess there might be some dispute about that) people.

The need of the hour is to soak one’s progressive hair in lighter fluid, set a match to it, and run around in tight, little circles.

From Potoked Again