An Aside. Of the Single.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy [ἁπλοῦς], your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad [πονηρός], your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

—Jesus, Matthew 6:22-23, English Standard Version

The adjective ἁπλοῦς (single, simple, without folds, uncomplicated) is opposed not merely to διπλοῦς (double) but also, here, to πονηρός (evil, wicked, toilsome).

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Four Related Thoughts. Of the Self-Evident. Of Hermeneutics. Of the American Political Religions.

We hold these truths to be self-evident. . . .

  1. No statement is eo ipso self-evident. A statement may be admitted as an axiom, but only inasmuch as one acknowledges that it has indeed been admitted—or rather, permitted. An axiom is a chosen means to an end.
  2. Jefferson’s language in the Declaration of Independence exhibits this qualification: the self-evidence of his statements is not “found,” not “discovered,” not “revealed,” not even “known,” but “held.” If they were eo ipso self-evident, he would not need to “hold” them. Rather, they are submitted to the reader as premises: if the reader permits the statements in the abstract, then the reader should permit the conclusions in the concrete. Jefferson’s argument relies on an interpretation of the British king’s actions as tyrannical, so he begins with a series of axioms to facilitate such an interpretation.
  3. The Declaration of Independence furnishes a hermeneutic for defining tyranny. This hermeneutic is still in regular use today, applied to different particulars.
  4. American political discourse—no matter how secularized—often has a religious quality because of the application of various hermeneutics whose axioms are ideals separate from published laws.

A Quote. Of Hell. Of Self.

For the one principle of hell is—“I am my own. I am my own king and my own subject. I am the centre from which go out my thoughts; I am the object and end of my thoughts; back upon me as the alpha and omega of life, my thoughts return.”

—George MacDonald, “Kingship”

A Proverb. Two Loosely Connected Thoughts. Of Virtues and Their Pretenders.

  1. “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.”* He is wise not because he is beyond reproof but because he knows what to do in response to it.
  2. A free society is characterized by the ability of its members to speak with one another despite difference, difficulty, and even offense. A free society is not necessarily free from these things.

* Proverbs 9.8, English Standard Version

Two Thoughts. Of “Discipleship.”

  • μαθητής is a learner. The fanciness of the word disciple, the favored translation, obscures the simplicity of μαθητής, makes a humble way of life into an elite title. But splitting hairs over words—learner versus disciple—is not upbuilding in this case. Of importance, rather, is calling attention to the concept’s progressiveness: Christ sent out the Eleven to make his people into learners, who are continually and progressively learning through his word, but not to make them into the learned, who have comprehended the great mysteries and forgotten why they first endeavored. Christ’s learner is not someone accomplished; his only accomplishment is his beginning, and even that was done by the Teacher’s power.
  • If you choose to call yourself a “disciple of Christ,” be aware that you are currently and actively under discipline, being disciplined. Not a champion, you have the humble position of an athlete-in-training. Not an expert, you have the humble position of sitting at the feet of wisdom. Not a master of the house, you have the humble position of a sojourner on the way to a home in the great palace of the King.

Two Counterarguments. Of “Christian Nations.”

  1. One argument against the claim that the United State of America was initially a “Christian nation” is the conspicuous absence of republicanism, or even of democracy in general, from the Bible. But let no one by this statement be deceived into thinking that the Bible recommends any form of civil government. The concept of nation makes a “Christian nation” mutually incompatible with the Church’s mission to gather and make disciples from all peoples.
  2. God himself has only one government—and it is a kingdom. There is only one holy city—and it will come out of heaven from God. For God’s chosen, every nation on this earth is in effect Babylon.