How to allow your opinions to rule your life.

There is truth, and then there opinions, and more often than not there is a significant gap between them. Only in hindsight have I come to realize that the central quest of my life has been seeking then testing what is true: who are we really as human beings, what power or entity truly runs this world, how then shall we live in order to make our world a better place for future generations and our fellow creatures? How do we distinguish between searching for truth and searching for certainty? Once we believe that a particular philosophy or theology is true, how do we remain open to testing it and possibly incorporating practices that are not incompatible with yet not explicitly enumerated in our true philosophy/theology?

The search for truth IS NOT a search for certainty. Our senses and our intelligence are wholly inadequate for fully understanding the world; at best we can apprehend a tiny fraction of what is true. The better we can handle ambiguity, the closer we can come to knowing what is true. If you were to know everything that the most intelligent person knew about life, there would still be a vastly greater territory called “what you don’t know that you don’t know.” The following principles will pretty much guarantee that you won’t find truth but will end up in the funhouse hall of mirrors of your opinions.

1. Search out knowledge for the wrong reasons, such as intimidating or impressing others with your knowledge.

2. Search for certainty so you can feel secure in believing you don’t need to ask further questions. Enjoy futility!

3. Believe only the sources that reinforce your own opinions and denigrate anyone who disagrees, rather than trying to understand the other viewpoints and test them.

4. Shout down, ridicule or suppress the expression of opinions contrary to your own. Invent “blankophobias” you can accuse your opponents of. Instead of debating the merits of your opinions with others, engage in name-calling and ad hominem attacks. Be smug and superior. Insist that those who disagree with you are ignorant, stupid, hateful, and absolutely wrong.

5. Don’t examine your own motives, don’t question yourself.

6. Get stuck on particulars and anecdotes, and ignore principles. This bears more explanation. Anecdotes are meant to appeal to emotions, mostly of the sympathetic variety, and particulars select a limited number of examples to try to create a general rule, whereas principles are what really matters. My favorite example is the U.S. code of Federal crimes. When our nation was founded there were 3 Federal crimes: treason, piracy and counterfeiting, because the operant principles of governance criminalized, at the Federal level, only activities which truly undermined principles which the U.S. (and most state) constitutions held to be vital: the integrity of private property, safety of the citizenry, and integrity of our currency. That was governance by principle.

Today there are as many as 300,000 Federal crimes, so many that every citizen is guilty of breaking a law unknowingly. Most of the crimes are regulatory–running afoul of regulations put in place to deal with particular situations or emotional issues, and meant to placate a particular constituency. That is what happens when principles are subordinated to particulars and anecdotes that rouse emotions. WE ARE ALL CRIMINALS.

7. Under the label of compassion, treat the downtrodden (in the U.S.) as victims of a system, rather than agents of change in their own lives who can be helped by uplifting their own attitudes and skills (the attitudes come first). Possible exceptions: persecuted people living under vicious, repressive regimes–ex. N. Korea, Venezuela; Christians and other religions in majority Islamic countries.

It takes mental discipline and discernment, developed through much practice, to be able to comprehend the principles behind the opinions and arguments. In a mentally lazy society that exalts emotions over mental discipline, most people will continue to be ruled by their opinions. Take a few moments to read this blog regie hamm and tell me you don’t have a tear or two for what we have lost. If you don’t, more’s the pity for you. Go wallow in your own opinions.

Godly Satire

These words are from Douglas Wilson, my favorite thinker. I have cut a few lines for the sake of brevity; my goal is to retain all the principles. I believe that satire, done well, is one of the most effective weapons for fighting evil. While his words are delivered to a Christian audience, I believe the principles are relevant to all effective satire.

1. A godly satirist should be a member of a worshipping community of orthodox and faithful Christians, and he should live in such a way as to be accountable to others for his words and actions. He should not be the sole judge and arbiter of the words that come from his mouth and keyboard. (Eph. 5:21).

2. A godly satirist should be steeped in the language and categories of Scripture. Spurgeon said of Bunyan that if you pricked him anywhere, his blood would run bibline. It should be the same here (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

3. A godly satirist should have a warm and affectionate relationship with his wife, sons, daughters, mother, and father. No close member of his family should flinch when he walks into the room (Col. 3:1921).

4. A godly satirist should be well-educated, well-read in the kind of literature that he is seeking to contribute to. A good ear comes not only from practice, but also from listening long and thoughtfully to those who are gifted and have practiced the same art.

5. A godly satirist should study to learn the quantitative boundary between satire and scurrility, knowing from the outset that there is such a boundary. (Dt. 25:1-3).

6. A godly satirist should study the qualitative difference between satire and scurrility. This is a matter of timbre and tone. No mechanical rules can be set down for it, but it is a very important distinction to make (Heb. 5:14). It is the shrillness or “screech” test.

7. A godly satirist should not be too young. In his Table Talk, Martin Luther once quoted an old instructor of his who had long wondered how St. Jerome, God’s grouch, had ever gotten saved. But old and crotchety men come from somewhere, and where they come from are young men who were promoted too soon and too rapidly (usually because of native intellectual ability) to positions that then go to their heads. Because satire assumes a stance of rhetorical superiority, there is a real snare in it for certain young men.

8. A godly satirist should target lack of proportion, not exhibit lack of proportion (Matt. 23:24).

9. A godly satirist should look carefully (and regularly) at the effect he is having on younger Christians who know him and desire to imitate him (2 Cor. 11:1). Does their imitation of him lead regularly to relational disasters in their lives? If the imitator is becoming more and more like the satirist, is this a matter that causes dismay in all godly observers? Or is it something that encourages them?

10. A godly satirist should have long experience in letting love cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). He should not be the kind of man who consistently gets bad service in restaurants. One of his chief characteristics in his day-to-day living should be his patience (Gal. 5:22). Road rage should be an alien temptation for him.

11. A godly satirist should be courageous. Lawful satire is leveled at targets that know how to defend themselves, and that will defend themselves. As King Lune of Archenland put it, “Never taunt a man save when he is stronger than you: then, as you please.” Lawful satire is a challenge to engage; nothing is more unbecoming than to act surprised when the challenge is received and answered. Don’t start what you are not prepared to finish.

12. A godly satirist should be a man who knows how to humble himself in order to seek forgiveness from others for sins he has committed (Jas. 5:16). If he is too proud to humble himself when he has sinned, then he is too proud for this calling.

13. A godly satirist should not be an angry man. His demeanor should generally be jolly, not angry. Man’s anger does not advance God’s righteousness (Jas. 1:20). Anger, even when it is righteous (Eph. 4:26), is like manna and goes bad overnight (Eph. 4:27). Occasions of anger are appropriate (as Christ’s example shows in Mk. 3:5), but if it is an accurate description of a man’s general demeanor, he should not even think about satire.

14. A godly satirist should not have “little man syndrome,” meaning that he should not employ satire because he has something deep inside to prove, usually to his father. If he is trying to make the little voices in his head go away, he should be aware that the use of satire only enflames them.

15. A godly satirist must be free of all envy. James tells us that truly destructive battles occur within the church because of envy (Jas. 4:1-6). This means that a satirist must be sure in his heart that he is not in any envious way dazzled or bewildered by that which he is attacking.

16. A godly satirist should know the difference between weakness and arrogance, and, as far as possible, reserve his arrows for the latter. No doubt sometimes the former are caught in the crossfire—some simple widow in Israel probably thought that the gold sanctified the altar because her rabbi had told her that.

17. A godly satirist needs to read widely in church history, particularly in ancient disputes. This will dislodge the very provincial notion that the current rules of academic etiquette are somehow binding on all generations of the Church.

18. A godly satirist should not be stuck on one speed (Ecc. 3:1-8). All satire, all the time, would be tolerable for about forty-five minutes. We are to weep with those who weep, laugh with those who laugh, encourage the downcast, rebuke the arrogant and powerful, comfort the afflicted, and (here is where satire can come in) afflict the comfortable.

19. A godly satirist should hate what is evil. The fear of God is not only the beginning of knowledge, but it is also defined as the hatred of evil. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate” (Prov. 8:14KJV).

20. A godly satirist should love what is good (Tit. 2:14). He should be motivated by a love that seeks to defend what is noble and right, or weak and defenseless, and not be motivated by a bitterness that seeks to bite and tear (Gal. 5:13-15).