Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Word of a Gentleman: Rule Two

A Gentleman is Honest.
He admits his demerits frankly.

The challenge of truthfulness becomes a serious hurdle when fault and disfavor can be found in us as a result. This is a burden that all men, for we all have failings, carry. The requirement of "frankness" is absolute. No equivication or dodging. Those efforts mean that one does not want others to value of the demerit correctly. He wants credit for the admission/confession but not clarity on just how bad his action was. Equivication just means that he knows how bad he was but doesn't want that value communicated. A gentleman is a servant of his society and he knows that he is responsible to remove his faults from the scene. He knows he should have had power over them to begin with but since they bore fruit, he must own them completely.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Word of a Gentleman: Rule One

A Gentleman is Modest.
He will live by his merits not by their advertisement.

Whatsoever a man has to his credit, be it accomplishment, wealth, or talent, it has a function. It brings to him, or to others, a good caused by the function. When a man has to, or feels he has to, announce the presence of such credits to his company, he admits that he has failed to rejoice in that which is naturally caused. His audience may have seen what the credit did cause but the wage they paid or the applause they gave was insufficient. For such a man, the perceived benefit of all personally held credits is the acquisition of admiration. The weak soul never tires of reminding the rest of his company that the thankless job of applauding remains perpetually unfinished. He does not know that the borders of the life he holds are defined by the earned price, market set, of his merits. The lot he holds (small or large) he asks us to call an empire. A gentleman will be convinced of his status by his audience and not vice versa.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Walking Dead

It hurts less now, two days from the epiphany of pain. I am less sure of the pain of Hell (in the physical sense) because of it. Apart from the attention getting quality that massive, unavoidable red hot spikes driven into your body may have, it has, besides, a curious side effect. You forget your own existence. That which makes you human, that of relating with all your interconnected definitions, hopes, fears, and intentions, cannot even raise a collective frightened head out the the trench to which it fled. Pain of this sort is a private exchange between the torment and the one part of you so tormented. The self, so deeply in need of punishment for the crimes that that self employed throughout its life, needs to be "in on it" more than massive pain can allow. St. Clive lifts the shades (pun intended) by saying that, while Heaven is man saying "Thy will be done," Hell is God saying to man "Thy will be done." Hell becomes the utterly complete conviction of a man's thoughts and what he thought was devoid of Joy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

My Aching Back

Threw out the back this morning while heroically putting on my underwear. Every inch is a crisis. This note was typed only after Nurse Leslie had me prostrate on the floor till noon, dressed me like the geriatric I have become, shuffled me down the hall to the graphics office, fed me lunch laced with narcotics, and handed me the keyboard. Drugs affect me differently so perhaps I'll slip into orthodoxy.

Pray for me.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Things Hard To Understand, Bucko?

"When falls on man the anger of the gods, first from his mind they banish understanding."

"When divine power plans evil for a man, it first injures his mind."

"Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses."

"Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad."

Witness this!

Matthew 18:15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Much is made, in Christian circles, of the process a correcting brother must go through in an effort to bring repentance to a sinner. Not enough attention is given to the corrected brother and his process. Ideally, the corrected will listen at the first meeting with just one testimony - the charge of the corrector (and perhaps the second testimony of his own conscience). If the corrected brother does not listen, the corrector should move to Step Two and gain witnesses. An especially tragic tactic in this effort is when the corrected insists that his reason for not listening (sometimes not even granting a hearing) at Step One was the absence of the witnesses. He claims the witnesses must be produced to gain standing in the original contention. In actuality they ought to be present to make assessment of the conversation occurring between the corrector and the corrected. They are not witnesses of the originating sin, but of the corrected brother’s refusal to listen. The public appraisal is more about the case each brother makes and the reaction to correction (“every word”) than the originating sin itself. They become potential witnesses to a new sin - the unwillingness to hear and consider. The corrected person should indeed listen when their sins are discussed before these others, and the others can witness their repentance or refusal. To heap tragedy on tragedy the corrected person, (not allowing that the public display of his inaccessible ear is precisely what he demanded in refusing to listen at Step One), then refuses to listen at Step Two because it has not been settled by church courts. It is not that the Matthew process is “holy” and must be followed that necessarily carries the contention to this endpoint, but it is the corrected’s refusal to listen. It is assumed in the text of Matthew that it is a shame that the brother who sinned did not listen at the earlier encounters. In “gaining your brother” both sides need to fulfill an obligation. The corrector corrects, and the corrected ought to listen.
When the corrected brother is an elder, the church is merely reminded of the Matthew standard in I Timothy 5.
19 Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
It does not say that the elder may not be approached privately or with the witnessing brothers or, if he is, he does not have to listen. He certainly can, may, and ought to listen to the charges, because he is not the Church waiting for Step Three, but rather a Christian experiencing Step One or Two. It merely says in Timothy that the church at large should not take action until the conversation reaches Step Three, adding an extra sanction to a final Step Four, which is public rebuke along with the elder’s excommunication (“persist in sin” is suggestive of an unrepentance regarding the originating charge and the persistant refusal to listen. That is, if Timothy dovetails with Matthew 18 regarding what the “two or three” witnessed). But here is the rub. When the evasive person is a pastor or elder and is constantly pushing for future Steps in order to defer his responsibility to listen, he knows that the issue is eventually going to enter his “own” courtroom. Essentially, he says, “It is not Biblical justice until I have control of the judges and jury.”
Where does all this leave the corrector? He knows that at Step Three, church leadership becomes notoriously deaf when it involves popular and powerful elders (especially those who have practiced not listening through Steps One and Two). The corrector ought to be driven by the desire to restore the brother, and must plead in Step One for a hearing and a listening, now, without witnesses, just two brothers and a conscience. He also has Step Two at his disposal, that of pleading for a hearing in front of those who can witness the exchange, so that more could testify to the points and counterpoints, listening or the refusal to listen. If that body of witnesses gets large enough, the corrected elder may not be able to smile knowingly at the protections he believed he had on Step Three.
This examination of the potential misuse of the Matthew 18 and I Timothy 5 passages is all made under the presumption that the corrected brother is truly in the wrong. He might not be. Does he show his righteousness by demanding the action go to higher steps, or does he know that his role in this moment is that of the corrected Christian, and right or wrong, he should listen? He knows (or ought to know) that he has faults, and without listening he will never find out if this is one of them. The corrected person, in order to be godly, must follow the Biblical process just as the corrector ought, and eagerly seek to hear and listen. If at Step One the misinformed corrector does not gain the desired repentance (because his brother was in the right), we should find the innocent man patiently awaiting Step Two that his listening and responses will display, for all who choose to witness, the grace of his readiness to hear and listen and consider. The righteous would do no other.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Once Upon a Time...

As I pastor I make it a point not to relate to the youth. It is my job to make the youth relate to Reality. I know that there are rock climbing pastors who play guitar in pajama bottoms ("just like Dave Matthews"). There are some who lead worship teams with a head mike and have that especial funk groove of white middle class society. God bless them but I am not one of them. I am here for those young people who would like to become adults, thinking adults. But in case there are those who look upon my stated objective as the expression of the terminally uptight, I post this picture.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Timely Remark

Time does not exist. If Time exists and God, most aver, exists transcendentally outside of it, then, for God, Christ is eternally on the cross and separated from the Father. And not. And, speaking in our time-constrained terms, the Trinity always was separated for eternity past... and wasn't. And always will be separated for eternity future... and shan't be. The "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me." must have eternal fixity in the condition of God. Could Christ "for the joy that was set before him" truly find the joy of redemption accomplished (a Time reference as in "It is finished") once he rejoined the transcendent? How about "once for all" and "never to die again". On this we must say either that Time exists and God is subject to it or, if God is subject to nothing that exists because He made all that exists, Time does not exist.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Ten Beatitudes of the Evantine Order

Years ago, when considering what timeless truths contributed necessarily to the calm of my life, I wrote this list. Follow them, my children, and find, if not peace, certainly a slight smile.

Thy larder, aptly so named, shall be ever plenished with butter and bacon.

The second is like unto the first. Breakfast shall greet thee on thy descent
and it shall be of the hearty and hot kind.

Thou shalt have one lusty member of the weaker sex as thy spouse.

Varieties of tobacco, every desired kind of thine and thy friends, shall plenteously fill thy storehouses, shaken down and running over.

Mammon, unclaimed by any responsibility perceived by thy wife, shall be found in sufficient quantities in thy wallet upon entering
a book selling establishment.

Thy friends shall have desires like unto thee.

These, thy friends, shall avail themselves for conversation at all likely times.

All that show thee hospitality shall defer to thy habits or, with alacrity,
insist on them.

Something of the beeve or swine families of chattel shall have died
for thine evening meal.

Thy house shall have many superfluous rooms.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Glory of Cardboard Boxes

What could be better than your parents buying a new appliance? With foolish grins they would drag the thing out of its brown container and stroke its white surface in consumer satisfaction and glee. Father would back away from the fervency of his wife to do the manly thing, which was rummaging around in the pushed aside shipping crate for the manufacturers instructions, warranties, and unnecessary plastic. What they felt, we had to grant, was important to them but could it be called, in any seriousness, a life? You would bravely step forward as if to ask a boon of your differently motivated but empowered majesties.
"May I have the box?"

For Man, the loftiest expression of the ultimate urge at the highest price is Battle but the clearest encounter, the pristine first taste of the drug we call the Pride of Life, the "bestest" metaphor of all we live by is the large, corrugated, Kraft-papered, cardboard box. It says to us that at last we have a border, past our skin, which is ours, inside which our law prevails. It is a fiefdom entrusted to us by the baron who ruled the lands and rooms round about. It may be poor in resources but it is clear in its claims. We were not pretending at all. With its rigid walls, clean corners, and flaps that close, it was releasing endorphins past our imagination's tales or any assent to what we actually felt. That box was, in truth, a fort.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Futilitarians: King Solomon, St. Paul, & Me

Futility, get used to it. Sure, you'll go through the stage of denial in which you strive to make a utopia (be it some patriarchal home-schooled courtship hell or hunter-gatherer hobbit-hopes-in-a-hemp-skirt or money making till my bank balance has a gravitational field or a military insistence for one-man-one-vote for one-man-four-wives barbarian or make up your own , it's fun). Then the stage of frustration ("So I hated life" said Solomon and "groan inwardly" said St. Paul, "oh heck," said Evan). Finally, because we have to do something, a tactic. "Enjoy life", recommends the King. "Long for and bask in your future and guaranteed Glory" suggests the Apostle. "I'm gonna do both," saith the Oracle. "Thanks boys!"

Oh yeah, "futilitarian" is a term free of copyright. Use it with legal impunity but if you are a gentleman, you'll mention my name as its "reverend father", as in "Evan, he of oracular giftings and the reverend father of the Futilitarians once said...". It doesn't matter if you love me or like me as long as you quote me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


It was suggested on another blog that my last post was "emergent". It might have been a compliment but as I don't know what-the-Hades "emergent" looks like it is hard to be sure if I feel the honor. "Emergent" (and I speak as an artist not a theologian) has the sound of bad poetry. It is a word that smacks of the great uncleanness that besets other words like "mentor" or "incarnational". I am sure the advocates these words are dear fellow Christians with whom I will enjoy the things eternal but, c'mon people!, a great thought (like the Gospel of Jesus Christ) deserves words that beatify the "great thought" not so much, and not so self-consciously, themselves. I would certainly like it if someone called me an "actual" Christian. You know, one who had been brought from death to life actually. So "actually" that my life reflected the actual presence of the Holy Spirit in "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control". The creedal among the saints might cling to the confessional animus toward personal, individual holiness and suggest that I am Semi-Pelagian. That would be fine. If Jesus Christ asks of me something that only a Semi-Pelagian can offer, Semi-Pelagian it is. My desire for Christlikeness (along with the verse, "If any man will not renounce all that he has, he cannot be my disciple") has led me to jettison those doctrines of the "fathers" and the magisterium of centuries that make room for sin. " But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

To Whom the Grace of God

I have thought that the Christian world is divided between two modes of grace. Not determinism and freedom of the will but modes of reception regarding those good things (like forgiveness and regeneration) that we enjoy and receive from God. Mode One: A view that Christ died to save the Church and individuals are the collateral beneficiaries of the graces given The Church. Mode Two: A view that Christ died to save individuals and those individuals, due to the effects of that salvation gather with the collateral effect that a church is created. Both institutions are stressed in the New Testament but which mode is embraced seems to have a massive distinction in our approaches to piety. Mode One produces Roman Catholicism and its Protestant descendants, those with a strong creedal and ecclesiastical framework (Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.) while Mode Two is found in Anabaptists with modern Evangelicalism today. A question as simple as: Do We (the church) walk by the Faith of our Fathers expressed in an orthodoxy of creeds and confessions or do I walk by faith (my own affirmation that Jesus Christ is Lord)? "Anyone who would draw near to God must first believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him." Do you hear that personally or corporately? Is your faith some xerox copy (losing resolution and clarity with each generation) of the affirmations of the Church or is your church the expression of your own walking by faith? Are you more comfortable with being orthodox or biblical?