The Unity (or Geometry) of Scripture

A couple weeks ago, I had a not-entirely-atypical experience in our homegroup. I had given a fairly brief (20-minute) teaching on authority and the Kingdom of God, a favorite topic of mine. I had used some 11 passages from the Bible and one quote from Karl Barth. Literally, my teaching notes were just 11 passages and the Barth quote.

During the discussion time, one of our small group members arrived late and was rather insistent that we explain to him what the teaching had been so that he could engage in the conversation. He was especially resistant to responding simply to the quote from Barth; he wanted to know, “where is it written?” (a favorite mantra of the Old Swedish Covenanters, familiar to me from my childhood) A couple members of the group stumbled to try to recount the long narrative from Genesis to Revelation that I had recounted. Finally, they gave up and passed him my notes. He had a fistful of Scripture, but I’m sure it did him no good in helping catch him up on the conversation. He wanted a verse or two; I was trying to teach a grand narrative. Admittedly, no single verse of all we gave him really encapsulated what I was trying to say.

Our problem reminded me of a favorite feature of a youth science magazine my parents subscribed to on my behalf when I was a child. (I think it was a National Geographic publication.) They would present eight pictures of various objects observed at very high levels of magnification (usually under a microscope). The game then was to figure out what each object was. Each object was something quite familiar, but the intrigue of feature was just how unfamiliar the objects would appear when observed at such a small level, under such great scrutiny. Smooth surfaces suddenly appeared quite porous; “solid” images appeared as collections of dots.

Of course, there are other sorts of geometries and topologies. There are, of course, fractals, among whose remarkable features is self-similarity at varying scales. Zoom in and out on a fractal, and you will see certain contours repeated again and again. It has been suggested that fractals are “natural,” for example, that the contour of the coast of Cape Cod is a fractal. (

My hunch is that this self-similarity is something that appeals to us naturally as human beings. From music theory’s Schenkerian analysis, which supposes that all Western tonal music functions more or less identically at various levels of detail, to physic’s pursuit of the Big ToE (Big Theory of Everything), that would seek to unify the physics of the very large (gravity) and the very small (various forces involved in quantum mechanics), it seems “natural” to us that our world should exhibit such self-similarity; it just seems “honest” for objects to do so.

Certainly, part of the intrigue of the feature in that science magazine was that it projected an image of a world in which seemingly tame objects held secrets that only a microscope could extract. The world, so projected, was amusingly deceptive.

What is the geometry of Scripture? Do we expect it to exhibit the same contours at every level of “zoom” or detail? Would a canon that did not exhibit such self-similarity be in some sense “deceptive”? Do concepts like “inerrancy” or “infallibility” or even “unity” require such a topology?

I have certainly been trained within the biblical guild to say that Scripture certainly is not a unity in the fractal sort of way. Whatever unity one would hope to find in Scripture would have to exist on top of a recognition that, at the lowest level, Scripture describes faith communities with internal disagreements and varying beliefs and, even where they agree, different ways of describing who God is and what He is doing in the world.

This view would predict a number of surprising differences between interpretations done at the micro and macro levels of the text, you know, the kinds of differences that would hold that, on the macro-level, Scripture describes salvation available by faith apart from works, even though all will be judged “according to what they do.”

It seems we’ve traditionally allowed for these kinds of apparent disagreements across scales. The question is: at what resolution is the Scripture normative? And, if that resolution is the widest, highest, macro level, do we really have the time and patience to listen to the Lord through the Scripture, and hear what He is saying?

Reigning in Life

Sermon for the New Haven Vineyard, 1/8/06

This morning I want to tell you a story. It’s a story you’ve heard plenty before. But perhaps not in precisely this way. It’s the story of humankind. From the beginning to the end. You don’t have to worry; I’m not going to tell the story in detail. In fact, I’m going to skip a lot of it. I’m going to be pulling a thread, highlighting a plot line that we often miss. Often we tell this story by focusing on life and death, or on sin and grace, or law and grace. Today, I’m going to tell you the history of mankind using dominion and servitude as the primary conflict.

And there’s good reason to tell the story this way. The first and last times we hear about humanity in the Bible—in Genesis 1 and Revelation 22—the topic is dominion. To be more precise, the first and last times we hear about humanity in the Bible, humanity is reigning, exercising dominion.

In Genesis 1:26: ¶ Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

We might instead translate this verse to say “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, that is, let them have dominion…” I don’t know why we go hunting all over the place, wondering what it means that we’re made in God’s image. It seems clear enough from Genesis that we are made in God’s image because we, too, are meant to exercise dominion, authority. The key feature of humanity highlighted in Genesis 1 in connection with the Divine image is that we are to have authority on the earth. To be human is to have authority.

Yet, this authority is not absolute. And this is the rub. Human authority is contingent on submission to God, who grounds our authority. There is a chain of command—and we’re right up near the top, but God is above us.

Of course, it was exactly this one exception to human dominion that Satan exploited in tempting Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve, and all of us after them, desired to have absolute authority over themselves, and over their world. Satan’s temptation of Eve centers around the issue of God commanding them to do something. At issue is God’s authority over Adam and Eve. And, desiring more power, power independent of and equal to that of God, Adam and Eve ate and, in that moment lost their authority—because they moved it off of its base, it’s foundation, which was God.

So we see that just as the image of God imprinted on humanity is the authority to reign, we also find that our chief sin, pride, is a distortion of this image. It is not merely one teaching among many others when Jesus redefines greatness and leadership for his disciples. Rather, He is addressing the very thing that our corrupted natures have lost: the true sense of Divine self-lowering rule. Where Jesus teaches lowering of the self for the sake of exalting another, we pursue tyranny: the lowering of another for the sake of exalting the self. Tyranny, empire, classism, sexism, racism—our greatest, most pervasive evils—all these are direct corruption of the Divine image imprinted on humanity.

But, God, in sending Jesus, has sent us the One in whose person the Divine image, Adam’s authority becomes grounded again. In obedience and submission to the Father, Jesus re-activates Adam’s authority, demonstrating again and again that the Son of Man—that is, the actualized human—indeed has authority on the Earth. The authority Jesus wields is not Divine authority, in the sense of immediate Divine authority, rather, Jesus comes wielding mediated Divine authority, Adam’s authority, the authority that is the imprint, the Image of God. In Luke 7:8-9, we see this aspect of Jesus’ authority spelled out completely. Jesus encounters a centurion who has an insight into the nature of Jesus’ authority. He explains that he believes that Jesus could heal by justing saying the word:

8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Jesus’ authority was one that was in submission to the Father—hence that Vineyard slogan that Jesus could only do what the Father was doing. Jesus was one under authority with others under his authority. In other words, he was an actualized human being.

So, if we’ve been following the story right, when we see this Jesus guy sleeping in a boat in the middle of the raging sea and he steps up and he calms the storm, we’re like—fair enough, make sense, after all he is a human. That’s what humans do; they have authority over the whole creation. It’s like if the power drill starts drilling a hole. We’re like, sure, of course, after all, it’s a drill; it drills things—but who plugged it in? The amazing thing about Jesus is not the authority he had, but rather that he was able to activate that authority. Every human ever created had the potential to exert the kind of authority Jesus exerted. The problem was that our authority was contingent on obedience to God. If we follow the story right, we start to see the necessity of there being a God-Man in the story of redemption. Man had this authority over the entire earth. That authority has been usurped by Satan who reigns on earth through Sin and Death. To restore this authority to its rightful owner—humankind—there is required a man who can be fully submitted to God. But who could do this? God tried giving people help—through the law, through the appointing of kings, prophets, etc. But no one could do it. Who knew God well enough that he could submit perfectly to the Father’s will? The Son. So the Son would have to become a man, because only the Son could lead a life of obedience perfectly yielded, perfectly submitted to the Father, so that Adam’s authority could be re-grounded in the One from whom it derives its power.

Paul describes this in Philippians 2, when he says that Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.  

9 ¶ Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So, Jesus has restored this authority to humanity, and we, too, are invited to reign with Him:

Romans 5:17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

As a result of our rebellion, Death was tyrant, Death ruled in our place. Someone had to come and restore our authority that Death usurped. We couldn’t do this work of restoration. We couldn’t live the kind of lives of obedience and submission that would re-ground our authority in God. But, by a free gift of grace, Christ, having deposed the tyrant Death by virtue of his obedience on the cross, rescues us from Death’s rule and empowers us so that we might exercise dominion in life through Him. That word “exercise dominion” in Greek is βασιλεύω, from the same root as βασιλεύς, “king.” As Christians, as little Christs, we are to be Kings and Queens on Earth. What could this mean?

And, finally, at the end of the story, in Revelation, we find that this continues. In Revelation 22:5 it says “And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

That’s shocking, right? The first time I read that—or at least the first time I paid any attention to it—I asked “over whom?” I mean, if you’ve been following the developments in Revelation, by the time you get to Revelation 22, there’s not much left. Just, God, the saints—that’s the “they” who will be reigning—and the heavenly Jerusalem. Besides, earlier in Revelation, the saints are casting down their crowns in submission to God; why are they reigning at the end? This doesn’t make any sense… Unless, the point is that at the end of the story, just like at the beginning, humanity is living as those imprinted with the image of God. They are reigning, just like humans are supposed to.

This is a surprising thread in the story. It turns our understanding of Jesus on its head: Jesus’ miracles suddenly become the ultimate expression of His humanity, and His obedience and submission to the Father become the ultimate expression of His Divinity. And, more personally, it invites us to reconsider our identities as human beings and our identities as followers of this man, Jesus—it invites us to consider ourselves in an unfolding epic concerned with dominion and servitude as much as it is concerned with life and death. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between these two threads of the story.

My parents have been in Ohio this past week looking after my grandparents—my dad’s parents. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and has been deteriorating rapidly over the last few months—mentally and physically. But the process has really been more of a test for my grandfather. He can’t care for my grandmother anymore. He feels it’s his responsibility, and in a sense it is, but he’s tried to take on her care personally and he just hasn’t been able to do it, which is totally understandable. The problem is that his stinginess and his stubbornness have prevented him from providing for my grandmother’s care by other means. The issues are complicated, but I think they’re about a single struggle in my grandfather’s heart. He’s dying. I mean, on the surface, my grandmother is the one in much worse shape. She’ll probably beat him to heaven, but, in a deeper way, death is already coming to my grandfather. He’s experiencing death now. His options are being limited, he can no longer influence his world the way he’s used to. His family and his doctors are becoming the decision-makers in his world. He’s losing the love of his life—for 60-some years now—before his eyes. And I wonder whether part of the problem might be that my grandfather increasingly finds it difficult to deal with death as a future possibility. In reality, he’s dying, my grandmother is dying. Death surrounds him. He’s steeped in it. And whether it eventually overcomes him today or tomorrow or next month or next year probably doesn’t seem all that significant. My grandfather is experiencing that Death is a tyrant, that Death is the loss of authority. That Death creeps in as we lose the ability to will effectively.

See, this is Pauls’ point: it is not as though we live amazingly authority-filled lives, but are merely limited by Death. No, there is a hierarchy to the two plot lines in the Adam story. We were created immortal and became mortal, but, more importantly, we were created in God’s image, to rule over the creation, and, through our sin, lost the ground of our authority—God—and became subject to the tyrant Death. Death then torments us throughout life, the primary evidence of which is our daily experience of powerlessness, weakness, hopelessness, and helplessness.

Romans tells us that Jesus has rescued us from Death so that we might reign in life. What does this life look like? What does it mean to be a King or a Queen in the Kingdom of God?


The first and most obvious part of living as royalty in the Kingdom of God is that we live lives of victory over evil. All of us here this morning know what it is to struggle against evil. We have addictions—chemical, behavioral, sexual; we lack the authority to resist the temptation to evil, to hatred, to violence. When I get angry at my wife—and I do so with embarrassing regularity—I can feel it coming. I know that, if I don’t change the direction I’m going, in a few moments I’m going to yell at my wife. I’m going to yell and it is going to do violence to her understanding of herself, to our ability to communicate, and it’s going to tear us apart. I know it’s coming and I know what the results will be. But I can’t stop. There is something inside me that is literally hell-bent on destroying my marriage. Our struggle with Death’s tyranny is rarely with an external reality, but rather a struggle within the internal reality of our hearts. Jesus describes this principle in Mark 7:

14 ¶ Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand:
15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Goodness is not something that we can achieve by isolation, by careful effort to stay at arms length from evil. The evil that defiles us, that makes us unclean, that separates us from God, comes from inside of us and we are powerless to resist it. Part of what we learn in Romans 5 is that this powerlessness, this weakness has a name: Death. When we experience that, honestly, we cannot do the good we wish to do, we are experiencing death. The good news of the Gospel, however, is that this tyrant’s power over us has been defeated in Christ and that this same authority that Death wields over us is now our authority to exercise in life for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Living as Romans 5:17 people means living in victory over the evil inside us. We can have victory even over the evil in our own hearts because the authority that that evil has over us is the authority that God originally intended to give to us and is an authority that he has restored to us through Jesus’ life of obedience. As God, in His grace, freely gives to us the benefits of Christ’s act of obedience on the cross, we can experience victory—as Paul says in Romans 8 “super-victory,” “more than victory” over the evil that has enslaved us. You need to know that, if you have accepted God’s abundant gift of grace and righteousness, you are royalty. God looks upon you and sees a King or Queen, a prince or princess. And God’s intent is to rehabilitate your will so that you can exercise your royal authority, beginning, first of all, with a victory over the evil that reigns within you.


Second, I think part of what living life as those who rule is living life intentionally. A couple months ago when our church was going through the 40 Days of Purpose, we were discussing with the youth group what it meant to live with purpose. One of the questions the curriculum provided for discussion was “If you were to look at how you live your life, what would you say GUIDES YOUR LIFE?” The curriculum suggested a few purposes: to have a good time? To make money? To please your parents? To impress your friends? To achieve some form of success? I threw out these suggestions to my small group and really no one jumped at any of them. Finally, one of the kids offered “really, I think I live my life without any purpose.” I’ve thought about that answer a lot in the months since, and I really think it speaks to something true about our lives. Donald Miller says in Blue like Jazz:

“I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.” (13)

The big threat in our lives for a lot of us is not that we will live active, evil lives, but rather that we will be dis-empowered to the point that we stop struggling and simply submit to a life that has no purpose, that we will live lives that happen to us, we will be, as the culture wants us to be, mere consumers, driven by a deep desire to be comfortable.

Through the 40 Days of Purpose, I began to see more and more clearly what that meant. Living life intentionally is both inspiring and exhausting. I mean, it is invigorating to think that everyday I have a chance to change the world. Yet at the same time, it is also frightening that every moment wasted is a moment that could have changed the world. All the sudden my life matters, but, then, all the sudden my life matters, my time matters; it is no longer just my business what I do with my time, my energy. It is no small thing to suddenly wake up and realize that you’re a king and that your office came with responsibilities—or at least opportunities—that are piling up as you ignore them. Yet this is who we are in God’s Kingdom and real, abundant, meaningful life has been readied for us, if we would just step out in risk and exercise the authority God has given us.

God has given us authority to reign in life, to be influencers, rather than the influenced. The Church—that is, the people that constitute the Church—should be the primary purveyor of art and ideas—and the primary translator of those ideas into action. God has restored this fundamentally human authority to us. As we come to understand the story right, we start to see that the primary witness of the church is to demonstrate to the rest of the world what it means to be human—to be true, Divinely inspired and empowered humanity. We need to be raising the level of discourse in our culture to reflect the true potential of humanity as God has designed us.

As I’ve considered how to respond to this truth in my life, I’ve been thinking a lot about media. My big source of culture-consuming is the Internet, which I pride myself on, since, as a two-way communicative medium, it is much more open to my participating in the conversation. I mean, in theory, the Internet is the great technological solution to our society’s addiction to passive television. But, nevertheless, I find that my role on the internet continues to be that of a passive consumer. I watch video clips, I read stories and columns; I consume. I’ve realized that, in fact, the way I use the Internet shows just how much I have internalized society’s message that I am a consumer, rather than a producer of culture. Even when I come upon a medium like the Internet that allows and even invites my participation, the decrepit state of my will passively constrains me to the role of consumer. I’ve decided to start putting a ratio quota on my Internet usage. I want to spend 1 hour producing content to put online for every 2 hours I spend consuming content online. I have hardly been able to attain even that goal yet, and I’ve felt the pain of swimming against the current of consumerism as I’ve tried. But, I feel that changing my attitude and role in that part of my life is helping me embrace what it means to live as one with God’s authority to reign in life.

What is it for you? What passions do you have? Music, art, crafts, writing, teaching? How can you become a part of our world’s conversation, instead of being a fly on the wall? Even as I say this, I realize that these suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg; many of the things God has for us to do are beyond our imagination at the moment. Do you get it? God’s plan in restoring us to Adam’s position of authority is to use us to demonstrate the potential of humanity as God created it to be in submitted, glorifying relationship with Him. God has appointed us for this important work.


Finally, living life as those who rule means no longer grasping after power. After all, if we are who God says we are, then the appeal of so-called earthly “authority,” should decrease considerably. I mean, a Christian—a King or Queen in the Kingdom of God—getting all hot and bothered about worldly authority would be like President Bush pouring all his energy into becoming the head of the local PTA. I mean, political, cultural, and economic leadership can be useful precisely for the kind of influence we were talking about, but they pale in comparison to the authority God has given us.

But more radically, reflecting on the nature of the authority God has given us allows us to completely reconsider the nature of authority, particularly concerning power-sharing. I mean, we’ve already stumbled over the awkwardness of this. Several times I’ve said that we were Kings and Queens. What does that mean? In our world, part of what it means to be king is to be king over other people, and to be, in that sense, unique.

This is where this analogy begins to break down, or, rather, where the analogy reverses direction. We cannot understand what it would mean to have more than one King, what it would mean to have Kings in the plural, much less what it would mean to be Kings and Queens like this.

Interestingly enough, I think C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe can help us imagine what this would be like. In fact, after seeing the movie recently and reflecting again on the story, I think this is one of the main things Lewis is trying to accomplish with his story, particularly through the development of the character Edmond.

During Edmond’s first visit to Narnia, he encounters the White Witch, who presents herself to him as the Queen of Narnia. As she seduces Edmond, she suggests to him that someday he might be King of Narnia. This intrigues Edmond, but then the Queen encourages Edmond to bring back with him is other three siblings. Particularly, Edmond is concerned about bringing his older brother, Peter. “Peter won’t be king, too, will he?” Edmond asks. After all, what good would it be for Edmond to be king if he couldn’t have authority over is seemingly over-bearing older brother? Sensing Edmond’s concern, the witch assures him that no, of course Peter would not be king but rather that, a king does needs servants and subjects. The idea of Peter as his servant very much pleases Edmond and a deal is brokered. Throughout the story, then, it is fundamentally this desire of Edmond’s that drives the conflict. The children are endangered because of Edmond’s alliance with the queen and, ultimately, it is for Edmond’s deceit that Aslan, the true High King of Narnia is killed. Yet, in the end, we find out that Aslan’s goal from the beginning was that all four children—Peter, Edmond, Susan, and Lucy—would together reign as kings and queens of Narnia. The coronation scene in the movie with four thrones and four crowns is such a stark contrast to the white witch’s seduction of Edmond and his desire to reign alone and to the Queen’s own solitary reign.

This is precisely one of the tricks that evil plays on us whenever we think about power. While God desires that we reign with Him forever, we desire to reign alone, without God, and without each other. Yet how much more glorious, how much more beautiful is the image of all of us ruling and reigning in life—together. Our concepts of power and authority have become so distorted that we can barely imagine what true power-sharing would look like, save in a children’s fantasy novel. For this reason, when Jesus described leadership and authority, he described in terms of servanthood. Our concepts are so backwards that when we see true authority, true power, we are likely to call it weakness, or servitude.

Reigning together is key to our success in the first to aspects of reigning in God’s Kingdom. First, reigning together means that we are not above one another and so can keep one another accountable in our struggle to exercise authority over the evil that is destroying us from within. Our fellow believers can stand together with us against our addictions and pray with authority for us to be released from the tyranny of Death at work in our hearts. For this reason, honesty and communal repentance are key in our church community, especially in the context of our care groups.

Second, reigning together means that we can more effectively live intentional lives that demonstrate God’s intention for humanity. Community was an original part of God’s intention for humanity—male and female God created them—and community is one the key venues in which we can demonstrate the creativity and authority of humanity as God intended it. It has been so exciting the past couple months to meet together with our care group and talk and dream about the things we could do as a group to start influencing our culture, rather than chiefly being influenced by it. We’ve talked about living in community, raising kids together, radically taking on the challenges of life in the context of meaningful community committed to the mission of transforming culture.

Fairness is the F-Word of Community

So, the question of fairness versus justice came up recently in our small group and I thought it might be convenient to post my thoughts here, or rather reprint them. Below is a sermon I gave at the New Haven Vineayrd 1/18/04. FYI, this is simply the manuscript off of which I preached this sermon, so there may be ellipses where I filled in more—and surely some typos—but I think nevertheless this is probably enough on the issue... Perhaps jmd will chime in with some comments and I'll get to/have to respond. Anyway, here it is:

Fairness is the “F-Word” of Community

Whenever I think about fairness, my thoughts take me back to growing up in my family with my little sister, Bethany. Some of you may not even know that I have a sister—I do—she’s a senior in high school right now, 7 years younger than me. Despite my sister being so much younger, I still spent much of our childhood tormenting her. I think my crowning accomplishment as the Divinely-appointed pester-er for my sister (that’s what big-brothers are, you know) was when my sister once went running to my mom, shouting, “Mommy, Matt called me a tattle-tale.” The banter was pretty one-sided. I mean, if a 12-year-old loses a battle of wits with his 5-year-old sister, he’s in some trouble. But that didn’t stop us from arguing. Neither did our age difference leave us lacking a common ground for understanding our quibbles. The rules were well-defined, though they had never been explained to either of us, and, frankly, looking back at it, it’s amazing how quickly my sister caught on to the basic currency of our disputes: fairness. Somehow we both understood from an early age that there was a big score sheet in the sky that kept track of how many French fries, how many turns on the computer, how many dollars of allowance, and how many pieces of Halloween candy each of us received. The object of the game was to get an advantage on that tally; your only defense from your adversary taking what you wanted was an appeal to the judge—mom or dad—on the grounds of fairness. Pretty much every swindle that I ever perpetrated against my sister centered around an issue of fairness. We each had our own bag of M&M’s, but I pretended that mine had run out and weaseled a few pity candies from my sister, only to later, after Bethany’s bag was gone, pull out my own bag and relish in her view every last one of my own candies, once thought lost. Not only was fairness the grounds of any appeal for restitution from my parents, not only did it serve as the universal legal principle of childhood, but it seemed that more than an extra piece of candy or any other advantage gained, unfairness was perhaps the greatest offense. Looking back on it, I don’t think either of us cared nearly as much about the item at stake as we did about the fact that unfairness was going to be perpetrated against us.

You don’t have to teach kids about fairness; I’m sure any of you who have young children can vouch for that. It seems to be an instinctual part of human nature, a concern that we each get our fair share. And let’s not pretend that the appeal of fairness ends by the time we become adults; fairness always holds sway over us. Particularly in American culture, fairness is a sort of quasi-religious ideal. Problem is, as each of us hears from an adult at some point in our lives, “Life isn’t fair.” Even worse, I'm going to argue this morning that God isn’t fair either. Don’t believe me? Let’s turn to Matthew 20.

Matt. 20:1 ¶ “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Matt. 20:2 “And when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Matt. 20:3 “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place;
Matt. 20:4 and to those he said, ‘You too go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went.
Matt. 20:5 “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.
Matt. 20:6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’
Matt. 20:7 “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into the vineyard.’
Matt. 20:8 “And when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’
Matt. 20:9 “And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.
Matt. 20:10 “And when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius.
Matt. 20:11 “And when they received it, they grumbled at the landowner,
Matt. 20:12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’
Matt. 20:13 “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
Matt. 20:14 ‘Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
Matt. 20:15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’
Matt. 20:16 “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.”

I remember when I was growing up my sister had these little Christian videos from the days before Veggie Tales; the series was called Mr. Quigley’s Village. And one of the episodes was entitled “That’s Not Fair!” and was a recounting of this story, centering around a communally grown watermelon. Mr. Quigley invited first the porcupine, then the monkey, and finally, the bear to be a part of his project growing this watermelon with the promise that they could each help him eat it when they were done. One by one the characters heard Mr. Quigley’s offer and then responded singing a happy little song “That sounds fair, that sounds fair, I’ll start working over there, ‘cause that, that sounds fair…” Well, when all that work was done and the little bear who had watered the watermelon everyday found out that the porcupine who just planted the seed and thereafter did no work on the watermelon got to eat just as much as she did, her tune changed—literally. Mr. Quigley then explained to them—like the vineyard-grower in Jesus’ parable—that the watermelon was his and he could give it to them however he wanted. I don’t think this story—either Mr. Quigley’s or Jesus’—ever convinced my sister or me that this whole process was fair. And, really, I don’t think it is. Fair is the same hourly wage, pay proportional to the work you’ve done. But the vineyard-grower’s pay scheme is radically different. At the end of the day, no matter how long each man has worked, he receives a day’s wages. The question for the vineyard-owner doesn’t seem to be how much each worker deserves, but rather how much each worker needs. It is on these grounds that the vineyard owner says in verse 4 that he will give to the second shift of workers whatever is right. So the vineyard owner gives each man the same amount: a day’s pay at the end of the day. The vineyard owner is unfair, but entirely just.

Isn’t this how God has dealt with us? Without Him, we are lost, aimless sinners, unable to live holy lives. Paul makes it clear in Romans what we deserve: “the wages of sin is death.” If God were to pay us fairly for our deeds, we would die and be eternally separated from God. But God, in his mercy, sent His Son to die for us, and secure for each of us, regardless of what we deserve, exactly what we need: relationship with God that leads to eternal life. What appears at first glance to be a lack of fairness is in the end a higher sense of justice and a deeper love for the individual. Fairness is everyone gets what they deserve; justice is everyone gets what they need. Fairness is the first stay first and the last stay last. Justice is the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

This is why I tell you this morning not simply that God is unfair, but also that we should give him thanks and praise for dealing so unfairly with us.

But if this is the case, why are we so obsessed with fairness?

I think the primary reason we love fairness so much—and you need to hear this—is that fairness provides a mask behind which we can hide our selfishness. I see this in my own life all the time. There are dishes to be done and I don’t want to do them. If I go to my wife and simply tell her, “Hannah, I don’t want to do the dishes and, frankly, I consider my time more valuable than yours; please wash the dishes,” I’m not likely to get very far. Oh, but if I invoke fairness… “Sweetie, I took out the garbage; could you please do the dishes tonight?” I can mask the fact that really the issue boils down to me not wanting to wash dishes and instead make it appear that I am an impartial arbiter of fairness. It’s like “Well, gee, Hannah, I’d love to do the dishes, but, see, that just wouldn’t be fair…” Really, my concern is for myself, not for what’s “fair” or “right,” though using such language saves me from having to come to terms with my selfishness.

Does this make sense? Does this resonate with you? If it does, what we said at the beginning is starting to make sense: that God Himself does not share our value on fairness. In fact, throughout Scripture, he regularly shows Himself as utterly unfair—or maybe it would be better to say, like in the parable of the vineyard, more than fair—and He encourages His followers to emulate Him in this respect.

Love trumps Fairness

It was in the area of my personal relationships that God really started rocking my world with this fairness-unfairness stuff. A bunch of us—11 of us—were sharing a house on Lake Place in New Haven, the house came to be called affectionately, the Porter House on the basis of a dubious claim that Cole Porter had at one time lived there. God did amazing stuff in the lives of every member of that community that year. The community offered support and a safe environment for us as we all made our way through our first year out of school. However, it was not all easy. As it turned out, living which 10 of your closest friends did not end up always being as fun as it originally had sounded. The main problem, frankly, was the whole living together thing. We had three separate apartments, one for the 3 girls, two for the guys, but shared a common kitchen, had a central cooking schedule, shared rent, utilities, grocery bills, etc. We wanted a deep sense of community and working together on so many of these basic things was a great way to help create that community. The real problem was that it worked all too well. Our lives were entangled; we were dependent on one another. And, as if we were one big newly married couple, we all found that there were annoying little things about each other that we had never known before. Little things quickly became huge issues. More and more, God made it clear to us that fight for love, community, and fellowship was going to be won or lost on the battlefields of cooking shifts, chore assignments, grocery trips, home improvements, and the like. I think we were all caught a little off guard by how small the challenges seemed, and appalled by how difficult they were to master.

It wasn’t more than a couple days into the Porter House experience that the demon, Fairness, first reared its ugly head. So-and-so had worked on painting all day, so it was only fair that somebody else cook dinner. The problem was the “somebody else” had been picking up the dish-washing slack and felt indignant to be called upon again. I don’t have to recreate this situation for you. If you’ve seen the Real World, you can probably picture it. It was back to elementary school; the game was on and the only rule was fairness.

It was just as this was starting to heat up, just as I was starting to build resentment for some of my housemates whom I thought weren’t doing their fair share that God brought me to a passage in I Corinthians 6.

I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

-I Corinthians 6:5-8

Why not just be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? Man, that hurts. What is more un-American than just being wronged? When I read these words 3 years ago, they jumped off the page and stung my heart. Why not just be wronged? What did I really have to lose that God wouldn’t replace? God has promised us what we need, but I was living my life in the house as if there were a chance I would give too much and end up short. Why not rather be cheated? Now, I’m not talking about just letting people off the hook, enabling unhealthy behavior; being a doormat. It wasn’t about the other people in the house. At the moment I read this passage, God made it clear that the issue was me and my heart, whether I was willing to forfeit my “rights” in order to better love my friends in the house. Frankly, there wasn’t anybody in the house that wasn’t trying to do their part. The problem was that we were all wasting so much time keeping track of tallies on the fairness chart that we didn’t have any energy left to actually go about the business of loving each other as Christ had taught us. I was so worried about getting ripped off, getting the short end of the stick, that my hands were tied in terms of trying to really love my friends. Christ’s love is self-sacrificial, right? Well then, to put it crudely: when you love, on the surface, it will look like you’re getting ripped off. God was pleading with me in this passage to lay down my weapons in the Fairness wars that were raging and to just focus on giving, willing simply to be wronged, if that’s what it came to.

My motto in the house became “Fairness is the F-word of community,” which I’m sure has some of my old housemates here rolling their eyes. But over that year, I came to believe that. Fairness stands in direct conflict with love. For whereas fairness has me concerned about what I deserve, love has me looking for ways to forfeit what I deserve for the sake of others. This is self-sacrificial love. This is meekness. I knew that love meant laying down my life for my friends, but somehow that seemed easier than washing dishes I didn’t dirty or doing chores that weren’t mine. How often do we profess to be capable of following Jesus to the cross when we can’t follow him to the laundry room? Over that year at Porter House, God continually pushed me to make my convictions about him real in my small day-to-day relationships.

What about this community? How can we forfeit our “rights,” what we “deserve” for the betterment of another in this church? How could this community be bettered if more of us were willing to just be cheated if it came to that? Could we do that? Are we capable of making those small choices? Are we willing to just be wronged for the sake of the gospel and the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Try that this week the next time you flinch at doing more than your fair share for your spouse, your roommate, your co-worker, your friend. The next time you are considering what the fair share of the work would be, ask yourself, “If it means I can better love this person, why not just be wronged?”

Justice trumps Fairness

So this all made good sense to me. If loving others meant in some ways, lowering myself, then fairness and equality were no longer things to seek in my friendships. But God wasn’t done with this fairness stuff. What about people beyond my circle of friends? Slowly, God began to show me that the same principles that governed self-sacrificial love in personal relationships were the principles on His heart regarding justice for the poor and disadvantaged.

God has long taught His people to go beyond fairness in public life as a community of faith. Perhaps the most strikingly example of this is in the Levitical teaching on Jubilee. The Jubilee is prescribed in Leviticus 25, if you’d like to read all about it later, but for now I’ll just lay out the basic system for us. The basic idea is that every 50 years, everybody gets their stuff back. Is that nice and easy? Talk about a quick fix for systemic poverty, right? Previously in the Law, God has prescribed an equal distribution of the land for each family in Israel, and in one fell swoop here He guarantees that this equitable division will remain. It even sounds, dare we say, fair…

But, then put yourself in the position of a wealthy man the year before Jubilee. You worked hard, you conducted your business shrewdly, and to pay their debts, your competitors literally had to sell the family farm. And now in twelve months all that property reverts to its original owner because God says so? That doesn’t sound fair. In fact, that sounds like the definition of unfair. It’s not like you dealt dishonestly with anyone, why should you be penalized?

God explains Himself in Lev 25:23: “The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.” Simple enough. The land is actually God’s and the Israelites are all—rich and poor—tenants on God’s land. The land is God’s resource to distribute as He sees fit and, as we saw in the parable of the vineyard, God’s justice is “to each as he has need,” rather than “to each as he has merit.” Wholly unfair, but radically just.

The simple fact of life which the Bible does not shy away from is that justice for the poor will often feel like injustice for the rich. And you get no apologies for it. The first will be last, the last will be first. That’s not a condemnation of the rich, but it’s letting them know—letting us rich folks know—that the raising up of the poor will mean a relative loss in position for the rich. That’s not fair; but it’s just. This is the radical heart change that God’s justice requires and brings about for us: Whereas fairness has me concerned about what I deserve, justice has me concerned about what those less fortunate need. Sound familiar? Justice is merely a special case of love. Love is putting all others ahead of myself; justice is specifically putting the powerless, the poor, the outcast ahead of myself because my resources are God’s and His mantra is “to each as he has need,” rather than to each as he has merit.

This starts to really blow your mind, right? No wonder no politician can figure out how to feed the hungry without taxing those of us who have enough or how to improve city schools without taking tax dollars from suburban schools. No wonder justice in issues of race or gender always sound unfair to white men like me. Globally speaking, all of us in this room are rich and powerful. Yet we’re all looking to have our cake and eat it, too. We’re looking for that volunteer opportunity at a convenient time so we don’t have to drop something else in our lives. We’re looking for that church ministry opportunity that will be fulfilling yet magically require no sacrifice of time or energy. We’re looking for that non-profit organization or political candidate that will solve our community’s social ills without costing us a penny. There is no such thing! And if there were such a thing, it would be a shame because we’d be able to pursue social well-fare without pursuing God’s justice, because God’s justice necessarily means that those in positions of power must learn to willingly abdicate their positions for the sake of the powerless. Sound ridiculous? Of course, but so does God dying on a cross for the sins of the world! We win by losing, lead by serving, live by dying, and love by sacrificing. That’s as true in our public lives as it is in our private, interpersonal relationships. If only we would learn to love the taste of this strange food of Christ.

So, I don’t think we’re going to have a ministry time today. I don’t know exactly where God’s going with this in your heart, but my question to you this morning is: Where is God calling you to take the short end of the stick? Where do you need to do some losing in your life? How can we together radically transform the world through our downward mobility? Is it in a relationship that’s gotten petty because of your concern for the tallies on the fairness score card? Is it in an issue of justice that the Lord’s put on your heart? Are willing to just be cheated for the sake of others? If the worship team would come up, I’d just like to spend some time in prayer and then we’ll sing a final song and close.

John Chrysostom

I've been reading some exerpts from John Chrysostom lately and finding them quite insightful. For those who don't know, Chrysostom was a fourth-century preacher who was really the first to deal with what it meant to be Christian in a world where those in power were Christian—particularly what it meant for issues of political power and social justice. Chrysostom was eventually exiled from the Roman Empire and died in transit, which, aparently, was the plan of the bishops who banished him. His speaking on behalf of the poor and the powerless in the face of a Christian authority structure in league with the political empire of his time eventually forced him to lose his life. He had this to say about the popularity of true Christian preaching:

"When we live according to the moral principles of our faith, those around us may respond in three possible ways. First, they may be so impressed by the example of our goodness, and so envious of the joy which it brings, that they want to join us and become like us. That is the response which we most earnestly desire. Second, they may be indifferent to us, because they are so bound up with their own selfish cares and concerns; although their eyes may perceive our way of life, their hearts are blind, so we are unable to stir them. THird, they may react against us, feeling threatened by our example and even angry with us; thus they will cling even more firmly to their material possessions and selfish ambitions, and slander us at every opportunity. Naturally, we dread this third type of reaction, because we want to live in peace with our neighbors, regardless of their personal beliefs and values. But if no one reacts to us in this way, we must wonder whether we are truly fulfilling the commandments of Christ."

A Quick Substitute for a Letter to the Editor

So, I guess I'm just lazy (otherwise, I would just write this post as a letter to the Editor of the New York Times Circuits section, but instead I'll just throw it up, because, hey, 6 months later, it seems like time to post again.

I was reading the NY Times Circuits section today (one of my weekly time-killers; I have rilina to thank for this addiction, as she was the one who hooked me on David Pogue) and stumbled across a story about satellite and cable television providers fighting over condo association subscribers. In any case, apparently this squabble has heated up recently because the consensus is that:

"Everyone who is going to pay for TV already pays for it," said Todd Mitchell, an industry analyst at Kaufman Brothers Equity Research. "The only people without it are Luddites and people too old to appreciate it."

What the!? The only people without either cable or satellite are Luddites and old folks… Well, which am I?

I'm not yet 30 years old, so I don't think I'm too old to appreciate this technology…

And I am certainly not a Luddite. My computer is nearly surgically attached to my person; the fact that I religiously read every NYTimes story in either the Technology or Circuits section probably disqualifies me from the Luddite category. In fact, I'd probably say that my obsession with new technology (i.e. the internet and associated entertainment technologies) is one thing that has helped keep me from missing a real TV presence in my house. (My wife and I have a TV that is mostly used for watching DVDs (ok, and playing the GameCube) and an old-fashioned set of "bunny-ears" that faithfully bring in any show available, as long as it's on ABC.) And I don't think I'm alone. In fact, if I weren't so lazy, I could link to an article I read in the last few months that talked about how the rise in the numbers of hours Americans spend on the internet is cutting into the number of hours we watch TV.

Anyway, that just really irritated me and I had a couple minutes in the library to rant; that felt good. Maybe I'll post something substantive soon…

Authenticity and Contemporary Worship

Wow, so there has been a veritable rash of blogging (here and here) on the subject of "contemporary" and "traditional" worship. It may be asked, first of all, as Dave was originally asking, whether what we're talking about is actually worship, or, more to the point, whether what we're discussing regards the entirety of worship. One of the men at our church recently wrote in his Handbook for Worshippers—and I tend to agree—that "to worship is to obey," and, given that broad a definition, we could hardly say that any of our discussions about "contemporary" and "traditional" worship come close to treating this topic as a whole.

This is mostly a semantic argument; we all know what we mean when we say "contemporary worship" or "traditional worship" and we know we aren't talking about all that worship is about. But, I do think it's important to note from the outset that when we are talking about worship, we are primarily talking about an expression of submission to our King, our Lord, who submitted Himself to His Father for the sake of us who were His enemies. (The meaning of the most common Hebrew word for worship, of course, is "prostrate oneself." This is a term borrowed from the political sphere, it denotes the action one performs before one's king.)

So, Brian is quite right to point out that "we have to distinguish between your act of worship and the medium through which it's expressed." And, he is quite right to want to evaluate this "act of worship" in a way other than by means of "the worshiper's immediate emotional response," as he accuses Jason of doing. Ultimately, as evangelicals, we want to say that what matters is the posture of one's heart. Is the worshipper's heart prostrate before God? Is his life laid before his King, ready to do His will? We cannot know this, no matter how earnest the worshipper appears to be, or how staid and subdued his expression might be. The physical manifestation of one's worship does not reveal the character of one's worship.

But we all know that, right? Worship is more than music, and, no matter what kind of manifestation of worship we're talking about (musical or otherwise), we know that judging the heart of the worshipper by the nature of his worship is, at best, meaningless, more likely, damaging. So, the only way to attack the question we're all dying to talk about is from the other direction, namely: what music best facilitates worship? That is, let's assume a worshipper who is earnestly seeking to worship God in song, and then consider what musical form(s) might best facilitate this worship.

The first thing that must be said about this hypothetical, earnest worshipper is that no musical style is going to stand in his way. One of the wisest worshippers with whom I have ever been acquainted, Glenn Kaiser , told me that he treated those who said they couldn't worship with contemporary music and those who said they couldn't worship with traditional music the same way: he told them that if something as silly as musical genre really put an insurmountable barrier between them and true worship, then they had some growing up to do. If worship is about God, then the form should not matter.

I think this is what Luther was getting at when he talked about the Mass (Sunday Service) itself and all its accouterments as being ultimately unnecessary for the true community of believers. Music, sermons, and all the rest would be unnecessary in a true spiritual community in which the believers would feast directly on the Word of God and the Sacrament. Luther's great investment in music and in liturgy in general was one big pastoral concession to the "weak" in his churches.

But, back to reality, as Luther's concessions show, the form does matter. Even for those of us who experience worship-in-song as a fruitful part of our Christian lives, we experience that worship is facilitated by some music more easily than by other music. Why is this so?

My first conviction relevant to this question is that worship is valuable only in as much as it is authentic. My guess is that we will all agree on this point. I have been convinced of this again recently when considering two passages that seem at first to be in conflict (and, interestingly enough, may represent loosely the viewpoints of our two friends). On the one hand, we have David dancing in his underwear so vigorously before the ark in 2 Samuel 6 that his wife, Michal is scandalized. He responds by insisting, "I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes...” David's jubilant expression of worship is not going to be tempered by his wife's concern for decorum. On the other hand, we have Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees in Matthew 6.1-6, which ends "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Which is it? Are we to worship God boldly before men or quietly in secret? The "conflict" is resolved when we consider that in both cases the concern is that the worship be done authentically. David's dance had to be as it was because that's what was in his heart. Jesus' advice to his disciples in the context of Pharisees who loved to show off, was that they ought to hide when they pray, lest they end up praying for the sake of men seeing them rather than for the sake of their Father alone. Worship must be authentic.

As I see it, the most compelling argument for any form for worship is the extent to which it facilitates this authenticity of expression. The founder of the Vineyard, Kenn Gulliksen, said that the question of what musical genre to employ in worship in their church was not decided based on what would attract the most people (then you're just encouraging people to treat worship as entertainment! Again, Brian and Marva Dawn and so many others are right on this point: how much further could one get from worship as we've described it than entertainment!). Rather, the decision was based on what music would most simply facilitate their authentic expression of worship. Gulliksen remarks, "The question was 'what music do you sing in the shower?' Let's sing how we sing." The original Vineyard church was full of Southern-Californian hippies, so they sang the rock music of their generation. Using this music in their worship was like Luther using vernacular language in his services. I think that's what so-called "contemporary" worship ought to be about: vernacular forms, rather than novel forms.

The important difference is that whereas Luther was concerned that the Mass be conducted in the vernacular for the sake of those hearing the words spoken, vernacular musical forms in worship are properly concerned with the state of those speaking or singing the words. The strength of "contemporary" worship is that when we sing with vernacular musical forms, the words of the songs we sing become our words and the worship of God expressed in them becomes our worship.

Now, what we have just said is relative at at least two levels. The first is obvious. What is the vernacular style of music for one community may not be the vernacular style of music for another. Indeed, this was one of the effects of the Reformation: it was no longer the case that anyone could stroll into any church in the world and immediately understand the language in which worship was conducted. The significance of this ought not be taken lightly. One serious disadvantage of "contemporary" worship is that it tends to further entrench the divisions that already exist between Christian communities along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. The hymnody of 19th century is, at least among Protestant churches, the "Latin" of our musical genres. It is nearly no one's vernacular musical expression, but it is universally recognized and (to some degree) understood. This is why I have been frequently frustrated at my church's insistence that our musical style for worship is a matter of "who we are." That this is a matter of "who we are" shows that this is a matter of authenticity, but, at the same time, if our musical expression is that of suburban whites, then is "who we are" white? Certainly these issues are present even in "traditional" worshipping communities, but I think the use of vernacular forms and the inevitable question, "whose vernacular form?" exacerbates the issue.

But this line of reasoning is also relative on a whole other level. While explaining the way in which I think contemporary forms work in facilitating worship, I pulled a slight of hand. I jumped straight from "authenticity" to "vernacular" by means of Kenn Gulliksen's question "What do you sing in the shower?" If this doesn't seem like a leap in logic to you, it's likely that you are an American who shares the assumption that completes the logical flow. Authentic ≠ Vernacular. However, in a certain American mindset (especially, perhaps, a Southern Californian mindset) Authentic = Casual = Vernacular. The assumption is that to be authentic and intimate with someone, formality ought to be done away with. A sign of intimacy in our culture tends to be the loosening of formal guidelines regarding speech and dress. This seems almost too obvious to me, at least at first, but even I have to admit that this is an equation that is culturally conditioned. It is entirely conceivable that for someone else Authentic = Ancient = Traditional.

So, I guess my take is that true worship needs to be authentic and that we have to admit that for different folks that's going to mean different things regarding choice of musical style (among other things). What I hope I made clear is that contemporary worship need not be discussed in terms of marketing and mass appeal. The arguments against contemporary worship formulated along these lines are spot on. Rather, I think it's helpful if we return to the impetus for the use of these forms in worship, at least in the Vineyard: a desire for authenticity and intimacy in worship.

P.S. A final caution for those of us in the "contemporary worship" camp: We must be wary lest we, in the spirit of our dubiously-formulated label, fall into a trap Luther pointed out long ago, when he wrote that he had been hesitant to institute liturgical change “because of fickle and fastidious spirits who rush in like unclean swine without faith or reason, and who delight only in novelty and tire of it as quickly.”