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).

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 Existence. Of Creator and Creature.

Nos . . . ista quæ fecisti videmus, quia sunt, tu autem quia vides ea, sunt.

We see the things that you have made because they are. You, however—because you see them, they are.

—Augustine, Confessions XIII.xxxviii

A Quote. Some Questions. Of Bias.

To be biased, of course, means, among other things, to be socially typed, to have a social perspective from which it is necessary to view experience.

—John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town (1937)

Questions that linger:

  1. Is bias essentially social?
  2. Is bias a perspective?
  3. Is the perspective by which experience is interpreted (or “viewed”) essentially social?
  4. Can anything be said, in a human language, without bias?

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.

John Dollard in 1930s Indianola

I with Yankee eye did cast my vision down
The tarnished streets of shining Southerntown.
I in calm reply did mind my manners here
As I spied truth beneath a white veneer.
I saw signs whereby the folks kept folks in place—
In class through caste by past beliefs of race.
I exposed a lie disguised in symbols fair:
black child denied adulthood by white “care.”
I have found out why—until the symbols sway,
White father to black brother—caste will stay.

A Stroll through an Analogy. Of First-Personal Discourse. Of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

The uses of first-personal discourse are many and powerful. But the intentional abstention from it has a remarkable effect. A speaker may choose to become less a person and more a relation between the content and the audience. The audience can be weaned from the distraction of the speaker’s charm, his existence, in order to look more single-mindedly at the content. Now, the audience will often be tempted to ask for credentials and to infer the speaker’s biographical details, but along with the speaker’s consistent refusal to involve himself will come the audience’s fuller understanding of the content and its worth.

Such a speaker who disappears, who ceases to exist as a person and thereby prevents a cult of personality, who becomes a relation between worthy content and the audience—is he not the greatest of human teachers? This teacher says, in his final iteration of the first-person, “I must decrease, so that this worthy content may increase.”

Yet if the speaker himself were the content—worthy content—and if the speaker should still avoid first-personal discourse to become a relation between this self-content and the audience, then this speaker would be more than a teacher. He being full would empty himself, would pour himself out to the audience, as if to offer his own flesh for food and blood for drink. And if he should afterwards choose to use the first-person, it would have a genuine authority. The audience, maybe now more properly called “disciples,” would then have an opportunity to apprehend the content, the speaker, in a direct and absolute relation that goes far beyond merely reporting what one has seen and what one has heard.