pascal was wrong

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
– Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII (425)

More commonly, this phrase is seen as something along the lines of ‘Every person has a God-shaped hole that only God can fill.’ And this is a nice notion, lending itself well to an apologetic that insists on the existential inadequacy of life without Christ’s salvific work.

In recent months, I’ve been wrestling fiercely with inner demons, confronting my own dark places and winning some of the battles, while waging others still. In unearthing a lot of the baggage and processing through everything from past and present hurts to memories I literally had to recalibrate, I realized something that deeply bothered me.

I am half-man, half-chasm. There is an enormous hole in my soul, and I’ve spent years trying to fill it, trying to let God fill it, but mostly trying in vain to do it myself. Inversely speaking, it’s like trying to bail the ocean.

Then Pascal and the bastardized version of his quote came to mind. And I thought it over. And while I understand what he’s saying, he’s wrong.

An abyss, even one in the shape of a deity, cannot be filled.

Further, not only can that hole not be filled, I’m not sure God is particularly interested in fulfilling anyone. If it is so that we are incomplete without God, that completion does not complete God, but us; that is to say, that God in this state of affairs is not God at all. We are. It is completing us, and not completing God or God’s work.

No, it is not us who need to be fulfilled, but God. God may well be incomplete without us in all our broken, incomplete–ahem, holy–lack of glory. It is for our frailty that grace is offered freely to those who would embrace the grace giver; that we need not be made whole, but satisfied solely in the Christ-event.

It is this realization that has brought me significant relief and peace in these trying days and months. It may well be what has stemmed the tide. The hole needn’t be filled: it is for this very reason Christ came! Nothing will fill that gap and nothing should, lest we be somehow dissatisfied with the resurrection or somehow find resurrection inadequate. (And many, many religious types do, and with the best of intentions!)

Family, education, career, art, benevolent involvement, passion, religion: these are all great and worthwhile things and worthy of our time, effort and devotion. They will not heal existential wounds or provide fulfillment. While these things are not substance abuse, violence or other self-abusive behavior (often with lasting effects on others), they can very easily have the same pernicious effect, because they, too, can become false idols. Only anchoring into something transcendent of life as we know it will provide any relief at all.

Something like the man who left the tomb empty.

Rather than Pascal, I think Augustine is more fitting: Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. 

It is not completion we ought to seek, but rest.

concerning repentance and participants in reality television

I didn’t want to write about any of this.

This week, numerous sources reported on allegations that Josh Duggar of television’s 19 Kids and Counting, sexually assaulted minors, apparently including members of his own family. The Duggars issued a statement to People, Josh resigned his position in DC as a lobbyist with the Family Research Council, TLC has scrapped all broadcasts of 19 Kids and Counting until further notice. Further information is readily available from any number of sources, I won’t bother to link to them here (although Gawker’s coverage appears to be the most thorough.)

The response from all corners of the interwebs has been predictably virulent and disappointing. Anyone with a keyboard, screen and hastily-created username has piled on. This is what we do now, I guess.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that what Josh Duggar is alleged to have done is wrong, criminal, sinful and absolutely inexcusable, but that’s our starting point. Ethically, legally, religiously: anyway you slice it, what happened was beyond inappropriate. The family put out a statement saying, in essence, that Josh recognized his wrongs, repented and asked for forgiveness.

Repentance does not excuse behavior: saying you’re sorry doesn’t somehow nullify the wrongful action. Within the economy of Christian salvation, it is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and a point of commitment to want to do and be better. Josh was right to repent, but the past is written in stone, the future not written at all. It is troubling that these allegations persisted after acknowledgement and that countermeasures appear to have been haphazard and sloppy at best, while the later inquiry into Josh by the Springdale police was railroaded by his father.

[EDITORIAL ASIDE: One thing I find interesting-as-in-disconcerting that seems to be overlooked in this matter is that Jim Bob Duggar was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999-2002: just as he was exiting a brief career in politics, is just when these actions are alleged to have started taking place. The question I can’t shake is whether one has anything to do with the other. I digress.]

Josh very well may have been sincere and cognizant in recognizing his wrongdoing, but his family parading his repentance is nothing less than an invitation for precisely the kind of vitriol being directed at them over the past three days. And, in fairness, there is no reason at this point to think that he continued to engage in similar criminal activity after 2003.

That said, we cannot turn a blind eye to what was done merely because he repented and asked for forgiveness; quite the opposite, both repentance and forgiveness require everyone involved–and now, in this case, that’s all of us–acknowledge the reality and gravity of the actions which aggrieved. Good behavior afterward doesn’t change bad behavior before. Try as they might, the Duggars cannot edit this out and leave it on the floor. Life is a live feed.

***

Not all Evangelicals or fundamentalists believe what the Duggars believe. A lot of the sneering and outrage has come from the cultural left and from various atheists and anti-theists of all stripes, lumping all of us Christians in with the Duggars, just as they are wont to do with Young Earth Creationists like Ken Ham or any number of prominent church leaders over the years whose personal transgressions tarnished their reputations and killed the golden goose of faith promises.

I can’t be any more clear about this: Christianity is a very, very large tent. Quiverfull is a very, very small part of that caucus.

I refer to myself as a post-Evangelical Christian, as far as I know, that term means nothing to anyone but me. I do not agree in any way with the way the Duggars have designed their family or with much of their doctrinal positions at all. I am not them, in the same way that not all leftists are Stalinists, not all Muslims are out for global jihad and not all residents of Chicago are Cubs fans. (For the latter point, we can all be thankful.) When you [generally] take a swipe at all those stupid Christians pooping out a zillion babies and waiting for the Rapture, you are swiping at me and a very large contingency of those who would welcome a reasonable and vibrant conversation about what has happened (and about a host of other matters as well.)

What has happened over the past three days has put the magnifying glass extraordinarily close to a family in Arkansas. These events have also shown a light on the state of public discourse in the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Neither have turned out to be particularly flattering revelations.

I really didn’t want to write about any of this.

the worst thing that ever happened to the bible

The inescapability of biblicism–and other nonsense–in chapter-verse delineation

When my children come of age, I won’t have them learn memory verses, as generations of Protestants have been wont to do. I won’t have them doing Bible Quizzes, joining Quotation Clubs or otherwise doing what is tantamount to memorizing a textbook.

This isn’t because I find the Bible to be unimportant to a Christian life, but precisely because it is.

Now, I am not blind to the important role the Bible has played in Western cultural life: global efforts toward literacy–and we can all agree that literacy was and remains amongst the noblest of causes–were often spearheaded by using the scriptures. Regardless of your take on its importance, theology was long considered the queen of the sciences. Counter to popular opinion, it was a foundational appreciation of the scripture that was the catalyst for the Reformation, which led to the Renaissance, which led to the Enlightenment. Even that eminent biblical scholar Orson Welles said on several occasions that the only two sources one needed to learn drama were Shakespeare and the Bible (an arguable point, but one made nonetheless by one of the titanic, formative figures of modern cinema.)

Flop a Bible open, though, and you’ll find staggered lines and strange line breaks making a mess on the page. Try reading the text, and it likely won’t make a whole lot of sense. For that, you can thank those who have gone before and decided to build in an indexing system. At least poets had the good sense to keep the line system off to the margins, keeping the text in a flow and, thus, more readily comprehensible.

I am indebted to others for a very cursory look at the history of chapter and verse in the Bible. We can thank Archbishop Stephen Langton (c. 1160-70-1228) for the chapter system, and roughly three centuries later, Robert Estienne (1503-1559) for further dividing the text into verses. Langton’s work was so influential that Jewish scholars adopted a similar system for the Talmud; whereas Estienne, a Royal Typographer for the French monarchy but not sanctioned by the Church, in publishing the Bible got in trouble with Rome and as a result became an early Protestant and was banished from his position. [Contrary to what many modern Christians view of the Protestant Reformation, much of the break was not ecclesiastical as much as it was political. Estienne’s son returned to Catholicism and Paris restored his father’s legacy.]

Needless to say, the Church and the Bible both survived, and the chapter-verse breakdown has largely survived intact today. That said, what is the legacy of these moves? I would argue that what we gained in memorization we have lost in internalization. I would further submit that memorization is the enemy of biblical literacy, and the absence of biblical literary has led us to the largely impotent, self-marginalized and anti-apostolic position the global body of Christian believers tends to be today.

For the sake of conversation, let’s consider a verse just about anyone who has spent any appreciable time in church–or has seen any number of extra point kicks in football–is familiar with, John 3.16: ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.’ 

I’ve been able to spout this verse since I was four, but let’s face it: a four-year old knows as much about meaning and significance of words as a fencepost. ‘For’ indicates that this, at best, a secondary or supporting statement, which means it does not stand on its own and isn’t even the locus of concern for Jesus or the author. Yet, in being able to readily deploy John 3.16, we ignore Jesus and the author and make it our point. This, by any measure, is a textbook example of eisegesis and is thus inappropriate.

Let’s look at the logical literary unit:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”

This is closer to what you see in your book:

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.

20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”   

It took me years to read the text, skipping the numbers and reading for paragraphs/logical literary units. (Isn’t that a mess???) We generally don’t teach this–or anything resembling literary technique– to either clergy or laypeople, and we have a tendency to divorce education from religious belief and practice: this isn’t advanced Seminary study as much as it is elementary literary comprehension.

The generally accepted interpretation of 3.16 is that God sent Jesus, his son, that whoever embraces his death and resurrection will live forever. Even something as simple as paragraph translation demonstrates the inherent problems with this interpretation: first, Jesus is not referring to salvation as much as he is speaking in riddles and outlining the Messianic mission. The former is very Johannine, the latter very much in the vein of immediate and existential gospel emphasis of salvation in the moment, undermining the widely held assumption of substitutionary atonement. We read our assumptions and biases into the text, and thus are not interested in what it has to say. 

To wit, what of the person who chose to follow Jesus who died before the Christ-event, death and resurrection? What of a Christian who died on the Saturday between Friday and Sunday? What of a righteous person before the Abrahamic covenant, say, Melchizedek? They didn’t have a Levitical system in place, much less the opportunity to make Jesus their personal lord and savior. The interpretation is flawed because it both disregards literary context and the very work of the Spirit we claim verbal plenary inspired the infallible text.

Moreover, the interpretation is flawed because we unwittingly engage in biblicism: worship of the text instead of the God to whom the text is oriented. In citing chapter and verse, we are propping up a hidden and unintended idolatry, engaging in well-intended sacrilege. John 3.16 doesn’t say what we want it to say; it contributes to a larger understanding, an authorial intent to outline the work Jesus set out to accomplish: reconciliation.

Further, consider one of the anchoring verses for scriptural authority, 2 Timothy 3.16: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. First, it’s a sentence fragment: verse 17 ‘that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,‘ has to be plugged into the verse. Second, the words ‘breathed out’, or ‘inspired’ are loaded: ‘breathed out’ is a translational choice emphasizing infallibility, while ‘inspired’ is a decision to emphasize verbal plenary, falsely equating the words of an author with the words of God.

Both of these choices reflect later doctrinal bias and neglect several points of emphasis the author actually means to underscore: to watch out for imposters and to rely upon the sacred writings with which Timothy was familiar: Paul was not writing about his own letters! Paul has an ego, of this there is no doubt, but he’s not foolish enough to think that his work is on equal footing with Tanakh. Scripture is not its own end, but it is to help the work of the Spirit for the individual and the community in doing what we as Christians are supposed to in the first place, continuing the Christian work of reconciliation in the present moment.

Meaning and internalization toward fulfilling our shared responsibility are the goal, not memorization, which is the essence of self-righteousness, the very thing Jesus explicitly calls out in Matthew’s gospel. This also enables the possibility of the ongoing work of ‘inspiration’: what makes Titus inspired and, say, Shepherd of Hermas or Thomas’ Imitation not? At best, these decisions of canon are arbitrary, at worst, it is a historical exercise in posturing, limiting the work of the Spirit and hamstringing our efforts to share and live the gospel. And, I might add, neglecting the words of Christ shortly preceding John 3.16–The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit didn’t start blowing at Genesis 1 and stop at Revelation 22, but the way we treat the text seems to betray that we think otherwise. In so doing, we’ve necessarily said that the very chapters and verses are as inspired as the words they’ve indexed, which are as sacred as God noun-self.

If your head is spinning, that’s OK, you’re not alone. Mine is, too. There’s a good reason it’s called circular thinking, and a better reason that circular thinking is a logical fallacy.

The only way to make it stop is to reject chapter and verse; some of that is already happening, moving from a static and indexed instructional manual or reference book toward a story or narrative in which we can place ourselves, as the flow of history places us all in the same stream, just a little further down the way. The idea of being Acts 29 is sublime, precisely because it undermines almost everything I’ve pointed about above, a continuation of a redeemed and limitless people demonstrating the limitless depths of God’s grace and mercy in the world as shown in the death and resurrection of Christ, inviting everyone to share in it.

The worst thing that ever happened to the Bible was that we Christians chose to view ourselves as less than those who have gone before, less than Christ and unworthy to continue adding to that anthology.

Is it any wonder we are plagued with any number of cultural and social maladies and timid in our witness?

***

Scripture references taken from the English Standard Version (ESV), via BPBible

A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible

Concordances of the Bible

Robert Estienne at Wikipedia

peace on earth

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. — Luke 2.14 (KJV)

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. –– Romans 12.18 (ESV)

One acts as a benediction; the other a qualified mandate. Both use the same root word–εἰρήνη, eirene–and that word has retained its meaning even in [infrequent] modern use: irenic. Peace.

The angels use a triplet, a common ancient literary device linking ideas:

1 – Glory to God in the highest

2 – on earth, peace;

3 – good will toward humanity.

The first idea is the core idea; both subsequent propositions can exist singularly underneath it. ‘Glory to God most high [Lukan, gentile language to be sure, as well as an added bonus of implied polytheism], thus peace on earth’ and ‘Glory to God most high, good will to humanity’ are both fine ideas–harmony between nations and peoples is a good thing and, for religious people like me, ascribes worth to God. [Also implied in this triplicate is free will. Calvinus delenda est.]

The subsequent ideas are within the triplicate, though, meaning that they have a relationship to one another. ‘Peace on earth’ and ‘good will toward humanity’ are combined. It is here where the words really matter. Peace, eirene, is typically used as a contrast to war; in ancient sources, the word and its derivations are regularly used in terms of a peace treaty, or the peace that comes after war, conflict, tension–all things that would speak very much to the social location of Antiquity….Luke’s time…our time…

And then, the real kicker: ‘good will to humanity’. Not only is the benediction to end strife, but to act civilly, with good faith, toward one another. Even the angels and Luke recognize that the mere avoidance of violence, conflict or strife is neither presence of peace nor an extension of good will to another person, much less God-honoring.

Then there’s this sage advice from Paul, wisdom that has been a challenge to me for the past month or so. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 

Most obviously implied here is that there are situations where it simply is not possible to live in harmony with other people, and that there is an appropriate state of affairs when it is necessary to engage. This is consonant with the Ecclesiastes preacher–to everything, a season–and thus, clearly understood by an audience of early Roman Jewish converts. Some libertarians might view this as axiomatic toward the principle of non-aggression. Certainly the language is unambiguous in its assertion of agency.

If possible, so far as it depends on you… 

[Twice over!]

The mandate, though, is equally unambiguous in its aim: …live peaceably with all. Pick your battles, but don’t hesitate when it comes time to fight. When it’s not time to fight, don’t fight. In fact, do the opposite. Show kindness. Good will, even.

Both aggression and pacifism are too often default positions: they become easy fall-backs for people who ultimately prefer to not engage in the messy tedium of conscience. For the battle-tested, it is all too easy to kick right in to war-mode, ready to obliterate. For the peace-monger, it is equally expeditious to merely stand by or walk away, anything to avoid the tension. Neither honors Paul’s admonition, both honor one’s self, which is to say the action is not honorable at all.

It is not hypocritical for the pacifist to fight or the aggressor to stand aside; it is, rather, human. Ideology is the province of the perpetually self-sidelined, anyway. That said, there is a season for both. Seasons come, seasons go.

The wise person recognizes this, reads the signs, and moves toward Bethlehem, where shepherds and magi alike are equal before a most remarkable child. Eirene on earth, good will to humanity. As far as it is within your capacity, live eirene with all.

Happy Christmas week, everyone.

coffee with dead people: dietrich bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, courtesy Dover Beach

‘Coffee with Dead People’ is a recurring series on figures, historical and otherwise, I find to be fascinating, reflections on their lives and works mashed up with mine. And they’re dead.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the most brilliant theological and philosophical minds of the 20th century, a textbook example of what might have been…

…had he not been executed by the Germans with Allied artillery virtually within earshot?

…had he decided to stay in the United States under asylum, as his friend Reinhold Niebuhr pleaded with him to do?

…had he not maintained his moral compass and theological integrity in the face of a tyrannical cultural movement?

My first encounter with Bonhoeffer was in college, where fervent and zealous fundamentalists gravitated to The Cost of Discpleship merely on the name of the work alone. In all likelihood, none of them probably read and understood the book, talking hyperbolic about laying everything down for Jesus in that inimitable way fervent, zealous fundamentalists can talk.

My first interaction with Bonhoeffer came a little later, finding his Ethics at a book liquidator for next to nothing. What I found was not a blustering, glib firebrand who would draw fundamentalists with his populist ramblings. Quite the opposite; I found a nuanced, skilled thinker–very German, very Lutheran–whose commitment to Christ and the doctrine of hypostatic union–the full God-ness and humanity of Jesus–led him to extrapolate a brilliant, almost mystic ethic based on the economy of union versus disunion, with God and with one another. His clarity was almost disconcerting, unlike colleagues such as Niebuhr or Tillich, Bonhoeffer took a simple idea and built an entire universe around it. Postman once said ‘Clarity is courage,’ and indeed, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was courageous.

It is what people have done with him that seems cowardly in comparison.

Eric Metaxas, heir to the late Chuck Colson as the socio-political voice of Evangelicalism, wrote a biography of Bonhoeffer that might as well have been any number of modern American Evangelicals. It was a puzzling work that was on one hand very readable and enjoyable, but also intellectually harrowing and anachronistic. Indeed, one pre-release reviewer of the then-manuscript found it so fraught with mistakes, grammatical, historical and otherwise, and so deviant from other, more socially-proximate bios on the subject that he insisted HarperCollins not publish it. (Nashville’s Thomas Nelson, an Evangelical publishing house, ended up releasing it to Evangelical acclaim. (The former is a subsidiary of the latter. Metaxas, as Jeff Tweedy. YHF, my friend. YHF.)

The political and religious left have claimed Bonhoeffer as their own as well, using his ‘religionless Christianity’ as the basis for everything from universalism to a theological grounding for primarily-political recognition of same-sex marriage. We’ve already covered how fundamentalists love a good title. I think, with what I believe to be good reason, both miss the point (as tedious distinctions like left and right are wont to do since they ultimately represent nothing but idolatrous self-interest.)

This is not to say that it is inappropriate for one to, ahem, appropriate ideas into one’s thinking on a particular subject (lest I be rendered a hypocrite for having a series called ‘Coffee with Dead People’.) It’s just that when we deal with our own thinking on subjects, we need to do so with an understanding that the mere appearance of concurrence is not concurrence itself. We are inexorably at the mercy of context, and granted that matters of context and intent are not entirely knowable, this is not the same as saying they are not knowable at all. Tillich’s approach toward panentheism and process leaves me wanting, but that doesn’t mean I can’t agree with him when he says that faith is the object of one’s ultimate concern. Bonhoeffer’s unwavering resistance to the Nazi corruption of the German church is a false equivalent to both fundamentalist self-immolation and ‘progressive’ self-glorification. It is culturally and temporally located and what we derive from that has to be appreciated within that framework. Hating the Cubs doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the careers of Ron Santo and Ernie Banks.

Beyond all of this linguistic nonsense, though, lies a creeping, disconcerting thought, the one that plagues each of us periodically in our lives: what might have been? Then, I look at a person like Bonhoeffer, lionized after his time, and wonder how he must have felt in Flossenburg or Buchenwald, the final days of his life playing out toward an undeniable end. Had he not asked himself the same questions, his life would not have the same lasting resonance, for he would not have been a man at all. Then I consider Jesus in the same way, carrying the weight of dread in Gethsemane, then the beatings and the execution. Who thinks for a moment that Jesus didn’t consider doubt when the Romans were doing what they did best?

Then I hate myself for my compromise, and place my trust in divine grace to cover the deficit. What more could be done?