instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Theoretically speaking

Today is not a good day to press the case for a Grand Theory of Pure Living.

Grand Theories of Pure Living purport to demonstrate the incompatibility of the Christian Faith with some particular aspect of modern life, leading to the conclusion that that particular aspect of modern life must be forsworn by all Christians who are serious about their faith. Particular aspects of modern life vary from Grand Theory to Grand Theory; examples are television, the suburbs, democracy, and veal.

What makes today a good day for Grand Theorists to stay off the soapbox is the Lectionary, which offers us, not one, not two, but three readings that pour sand in a Grand Theory's gearworks. Deuteronomy 4:2 commands,
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.
A Grand Theory that does not command is not a Grand Theory. James 1:27, meanwhile, teaches,
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
A Grand Theorist, though, is not satisfied with one's religion keeping oneself unstained by the world. Rather, he condemns what might stain, or what sometimes stains someone, and would change matters of prudence to matters of precept.

Finally, in Mark 7:18-20, Jesus teaches us,
Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine? ... But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.
These verses pose a grave challenge to Grand Theories, which insist that things that go into a person from outside defile.