Friday, October 03, 2008

Take the Red Pill

St. Paul found himself at the end of his life with martyrdom staring him in the face. His ministry was slipping in its support as "all in Asia have turned away". At this point Timothy, in the second letter of, received a very encouraging reminder of what the Christian life is all about.

When the haze of your excitement in getting followers and creating movements fades, you are left with whatever remnant of spiritual reality your sorry soul actually has.
It is an imperative in chapter 1:13 that strikes me poignantly: "Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me".
Without a movement around you, without your Christian rap album being successful, without whatever adolescent wish fulfillment fantasy in which you engage in the name of Jesus Christ (and call the resulting whimper "faith"), with what are you left to "follow?"
A "pattern" is when things, in time or place, sit in repeated reference to each other.
To be "sound" a claim has to have an demonstrable integrity.
And "from me" is a presumption of authority.

Timothy's responsibility, and I hope yours as well, is to follow the guide of these things. In more modern terms, there is a "systematic" which exists for your discovery and submission. For the more modern yet, a "matrix" exists objectively along side many fantasies.
The pattern that St. Paul confers on Timothy is one that Timothy can actually experience, and "see". The pattern will show how the parts of it sit in reference to the other parts. It is an empirically enjoyed pattern, one that we follow while standing in the midst of it in wonder.

Paul has wrapped this invitation to patterned living in two more epistemological claims. He seems to think that it is important that his teaching of the pattern and the pattern itself be rational. Without reason the "soundness" is unexaminable. Teaching "patterns" often involves specious claims and fallacious arguments. Many rituals in life (and for life) have no visible means of support. The purveyors of these hope that no one examines them for a while so that soundness is now measured, not by reason, but by magisterium, movement loyalties, and loud hollerin' about orthodoxy. One of the benefits of that which is "sound," is that its rational integrity can always be revisited. Along side that rational defense of the pattern he offers, St. Paul offers his own bona fides. "From me" matters. I cannot say the same. The authority I report to others of the pattern is no different that of the Apostle's. It is not a difference which separates St. Paul and The Oracle. It is distance.
I, too, offer that which must exist in pattern to be both followed and enjoyed, experienced empirically by the saints so taught.
I, too, must appeal to reason to sustain the testing of my pattern and celebrate the triumph of "soundness".
I, too, will refer to authority. But those to whom God spoke have a relationship with revelatory authority that is decisive. It is an epistemological authority regarding which I stand (in using) both at a distance of person and time. I can offer only the revelations of the Apostles and Prophets that have been communicated to me. If I support a pattern to be followed, other than what Reason and Apostolic Revelation say, I must claim to be inspired. I will not. Others have. It is suspected that such fall into another category of Christian teacher.
"and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. " Acts 20:30
This prophesy came true. It was given to the Ephesian elders. The next few verses of II Timothy 1 let us know that Ephesus of Asia is central to the desertion of St. Paul.

The Oracle suggests that you, yourself, find the pattern declared by Reason and the Apostle. Live by it. If you run into the Orthodox, smile, be sweet, and know they took the Blue Pill.

1 comment:

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Hey, two things:

First, happy birthday.

Second, you mean when someone starts telling me that because I believe in Sacraments I'm a heretic--I'm not properly Orthodox--I should just roll my eyes, and say "yep, he took the blue pill"?