instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Quiz time
Alice was talking with Bob and happened to ask him if he had seen Carl recently. "No," Bob answered cooly. "I asked him to take me sailing in his sailboat, and he wouldn't, which tells me what kind of person he is."

Later that day, Alice saw Carl and told him what Bob had said. "Yes, he asked me to take him sailing," Carl said. "And I said, 'Sure thing! Come on down to the marina any time.' Then he said, 'No, bring the sailboat to my kitchen. I want to go sailing in my sink.'"

What did Alice say in reply?
  1. "Man, Bob is nuts!"
  2. "A true friend would have brought the sailboat to his kitchen, Carl."
  3. "If these stories get any lamer, I'm going to color outside the lines of conformity to strident stale mores and theologies!"
I've never met Alice, so I have no idea what she said. But I think the only sensible choice is #1. I even think almost everyone can easily see that if you want to go sailing, you can't stay in your kitchen.

It's harder to see, though, that in prayer we might be asking God for things that He literally cannot give us if we refuse to move from where we are. The man in the parable who knocks on his neighbor's door in the middle of the night does get the bread he asks for, but only because he first goes to his neighbor's door. If he had stayed in his own house and tried shouting, it wouldn't have worked.

I may respond to Jesus' promise that it shall be given by praying for the gift of piety, say, but it's simply impossible for me to receive that gift from the position of desiring it in order to show up those holier-than-thou types on the parish council. In fact, for me to say "I want to be pious in order to show them up" is as nonsensical as Bob's saying "I want to go sailing in my sink." Whatever it is Bob wants to do, it isn't sailing, properly speaking. Whatever gift it is I want, it isn't true piety.