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Volume 16, Issue 2: Meander

Ball, Shot, Pocket

Douglas Wilson

What is a Christian intellectual? After much soul searching, incessant prayer, and deep pondering, I believe I have come up with an answer. A Christian intellectual is one who finally grasps and advances a basic argument forty years after the fundamentalists do.

The T-shirt said it all. Vegetarians prey on life forms that can neither run nor hide.

Conflict is essential to a good story and, conversely, whenever conflict arises in the world, it provides raw material for a subsequent story. Some battles just beg to be told, and some great showdowns in history cry out for the same narrative treatment. Whenever we see conflict, we should see far more than the "present mess." We should learn to look for the story line. One of the reasons why so many people behave poorly in a conflict is that they have no real ear for story. They are unaware of how their bad behavior will look when it is properly framed in the story that is told about the conflict. This is just another way of saying that they are self-absorbed, and not absorbed in the story that God is telling. The story they attempt to tell themselves is a very narrow one. The kind of story that Judas was telling himself was the kind of story that only Judas could believe. But the story that God was telling there, while it included Judas, included the salvation of the entire world—it was the kind of story the whole world will believe.

So conflict must be more than simply present. As we experience it, we must understand it as artists and characters, listeners and storytellers. For we are God's artwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand for us to do.

Don't you just hate metaphor fads? One that is currently on a jag is the "thing" everybody appears to have with Tuscany, which is probably a very nice place. There was a book, I think, and a movie, and sheets at the Bon, and lots of sophisticated Tuscany stuff like that. I soon anticipate finding myself at the rodeo, at the hot dog stand, and having to order a "Pig in a Tuscan Blanket."

One of the great principles of warfare is the principle of pursuit. When controversy finally erupts in conflict, usually the field is held at the end of the day by one of the combatants. This is the case in physical warfare, and it is the case in theological battles of words. For the victorious party, it is easy to enjoy that victory and the subsequent peace of having held their ground. But a pressing temptation for the victor is to fail to pursue. This temptation is fully understandable. After all, having fought and won, why pursue further conflict? The adversary has fled. Why not let them? And the answer is that soldiers should always fight with their eye on the war, and not just on the battle.

I read it once, in its spiral-comb incarnation, and then just recently read it through again. The Lord's Service by Jeff Meyers is simply outstanding. If you want a detailed treatment of the basics of covenant renewal worship, this is the book. If you want to know what it will take to turn America around, this is the book.

When conflict and controversy arise in the church, this is not a sign that something has "gone wrong." God could have arranged a system so that whenever a person is truly converted to God, he would be immediately translated up to heaven, thus avoiding an awful lot of turmoil. But this is not God's plan for us. Paul says that it is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of heaven (Acts 14:22). This is a design feature. It would not be healthy for us to go to heaven without ever learning how to fight.

We learn to fight fleshly lusts within ourselves which war against the soul. We learn to fight principalities and powers. We learn to fight false brothers who betray the covenant people. We learn to fight the spirit of the age. And in all this, we are learning what love really means. In a fallen world, a man with no conflicts whatever is a man who does not know what it means to love.

Samuel Rutherford said, "I find it most true, that the greatest temptation out of hell, is to live without temptations; if my waters should stand, they would rot. Faith is the better of free air, and of the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God's master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons."

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