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Volume 16, Issue 3: Meander

The Thick Plottens

Douglas Wilson

Not that I want to see them, or encourage others to see them, but allow just a few brief comments on the Kill Bill movies. The extreme violence they contain is sometimes defended as being too cartoonish or ritualistic to be taken seriously, and so we can go and just enjoy the "over the top" portrayals of various forms of dismemberment. We don't get our skivvies in a twist over Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, do we? Well, I would actually dispute whether such movies are actually approaching cartoon level—what is happening is that the cartoon mindset is acquiring ever-more realistic garb. Not that it is really realistic, but it is becoming realistic enough to confuse the simple, which is to say, the bulk of the audience at such movies. In all the years of the Road Runner cartoons, I doubt if any kid thought he was a coyote who could therefore swallow an anvil.

With regard to the dismissal of the violence because of the ritualistic form it takes, the only response I would make is that it is very American to dismiss rituals as unimportant. I don't dispute at all that this is what is happening. However, when Paul told the Corinthians to avoid the table of demons, he was telling them to stay away from a ritual. And it was not "just" a ritual—it never is. The Incarnation teaches us that the content of ritual is crucial, and we cannot say that the mere presence of ritual somehow makes the content unimportant or irrelevant.
So should our young people be permitted to sit through such highly stylized, ritualistic dismemberments? Lex ritus, lex credendi. The law of ritual is the law of faith, so you tell me.

Eric Clapton recently put out an album where he covers a lot of old Robert Johnson blues standards. It is really worthwhile. The album is entitled Me and Mr. Johnson.

Once two seminary professors at Bestminster Theological Seminary were walking together, heads bowed as they were deep in theological conversation. Their topic concerned the depths of the wisdom of God in the salvation of sinful man, and it was consequently slow going, as though they were trying to paddle a canoe across a lake of chocolate pudding.

The point of their discussion was to ascertain whether the faith represented by the phrase sola fide was "living faith" or "dead faith." For it seemed clear to them, as well as to you and me, that it had to be one or the other. But, to be frank, a celebration of "dead faith" did not seem to them to be quite in keeping with the spirit of the Reformation. Not only that, but the folks down at Marketing and PR had positively nixed any such phrase for use on the donors' brochure. But the alternative was no better. To use the phrase "living faith" made them sound like Norman Shepherd.
As they wrestled with the problem, slowly the light dawned on both of them at once. In order to be "alone," as in "faith alone," the faith of our fathers could be neither living or dead, but, borrowing a phrase from chemistry, it had to be inert. It had to be colorless and odorless, like argon. And like Martin Luther, there they stood.

Scripture tells us that we should be grateful for all things, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of the Lord Jesus. But some things still stand out. If I may speak in a Hebraic mode for just a moment—for two things I give thanks, and for three I am extremely grateful. First, I am very thankful for the godly character of my wife and family. Second, I am grateful for the integrity of my friends and co-laborers in the gospel. But third, after careful consideration of the subject, I have to say that I am profoundly grateful for the caliber of my enemies.

The Auburn Avenue Hubbub Affair (AAHA) of course has a number of texts going. But those who are theologically astute have no doubt noticed some subtexts also. One of those subtexts is the question about the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, and the grounding of those covenants. Ralph Smith carefully addresses this question in his small book Eternal Covenant: How the Trinity Reshapes Covenant Theology. This book is an irenic bombshell. For all who would understand the current fracas, this book is a must.

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