New Years Greetings from DBO
The days slip away as rapidly as oats from a feeding trough.
It’s been a good year. This is not a phrase to be written, still less spoken, with any complacency or pride, but it is accurate nonetheless. In addition to shuffling back and forth every week to teach, I was transmuted to several countries for brief bursts of intense ministry. Web-wise the jig is hardly up (hits at DBO for 2007 number well over 7 million, and page views show a solid 5 million).
Here at Rosewood all goes well. The farm work continues to give me great pleasure, though I remain acutely aware that I am not an agriculturalist. It would obviously be a miracle if I should actually be able to learn farm skills and perfect them, but as we all know the miraculous is not always the best for humankind. If I may paraphrase a well-known verse: Some are born farmers, but some make themselves farmers for the sake of the kingdom. However, I have a roof over my head and some acreage to continue the grand experiment, and for these blessings I am grateful.
On the political scene, it strikes me that the New Year affords our republic a unique opportunity. Who is to say whether the intensity of nationalistic idolatry can be mitigated in 2008? Let’s hope to goodness that people will do some hard soul-searching. The difficulty seems the inattention given to the fontes, the basic principles of our nation, either that or a genuine incapacity to think altogether. That was why, when I began publishing DBO back in the Middle Ages, I tried to contribute something to the debate over the war and went out of my way to engage geo-political issues. Since then Ron Paul has pointed out some rather tough problems. But I think they can be satisfactorily resolved. The solution, however, will involve nothing less than a return to the founding documents of America, which are scarcely known or read anymore by statists, who are too busy listening to the establishment media.
As for my essays about religion, I keep reminding myself (and anyone else who will listen) that anything I say or write is absolutely worthless – in fact, less than worthless, a positive impediment – if people pay more attention to it than to the Scriptures. Enjoying to a unique degree the privilege of my own acquaintance, I am always a bit apprehensive when I hear of people who seem attached to my writings. If I may again be permitted to paraphrase the Scriptures, this time Paul’s epistle to the Romans: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of Christians is that they would take the Bible at face value. I can assure you that they are devoted to God, but they are misguided. They don’t know God’s way of doing things, so they set up their own way to do it” (Rom. 10:1-3). I suppose I have convinced myself that I have discovered a few biblical answers to some really important questions in my head, but I would prefer to know the answers in my heart and especially in my life, where it matters. It is always thrilling for me to watch people as they discover the truth about what the Bible says about this or that facet of life. I watch them shout for joy from the housetops or weep in gratitude. They are learning not to place stock in the words of men. God knows we have enough of those already. I fear, sometimes, that DBO has only added to the cacophony.
I long, when I have reached a saturation point with my own literary ambitions, to undertake a simple paraphrase of the New Testament, one that is obviously true to the original Greek but in readable English as well. I would do this with reference to nothing outside the text itself. How I long to resurrect the mots crochets, the inclusios, the morphemic repetitions – to clarify old insights and intuitions that I have long held about the sacred text – anything to get believers to read their Bibles again!
Christians have got to understand that the promise of 1 John 2:27 applies to them and not just to John’s original readers, and that the Holy Spirit is the only true guide into truth. I am humbled to see how the readership of DBO has matured, but I frankly realize that all this is merely a passing fad – a good illustration, if you will, of what the brilliant Bard wrote in Measure for Measure:
Man, proud man, Drest in a little brief authority – Most ignorant of what he is most assured, His glossy essence – like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As make the angels weep.
To be absolutely honest, ladies and gentlemen, if we go on as we are going on now in the church, it is absolutely certain that we shall face a catastrophe – a new Dark Age in which reliance on a handful of “experts” and “Bible scholars” will replace personal Bible study and the Holy Spirit. When I was younger I cared supremely for knowledge for its own sake, for the theologoumena of this professor or the insights of that academic. But for many years now I have felt a deep dissatisfaction with all these things, have felt, indeed, that even the greatest scholars were aware of their own finitude and susceptibility to error when compared to the glorious Scriptures. Recently I have begun to appreciate the true value of the biblical sciences, including Greek philology, and to see that they are no more than tools, means to an end, lesser lights pointing to the Light. I shudder to think how many times people may have looked to me as that Light, or how many times I may have shunted people out to the wrong track.
Je m’excuse d’un bavardage si long, but my intent is not to discourage my dear readers but rather to thank them for paying more attention to the Conductor than to the caboose man. That means a great deal to this editor. I do hope all of you flourish in 2008, and that the appalling gloom and stuffiness of an election year will not prevent you from reaching your destination. I pray above all that this hideous business in the Middle East may end soon.
I, for one, look forward to another year of cheerful blogging. After all, anyone can draw devils; painting angels is quite another thing.
FYI, the best-read essays on DBO in 2007 included:
December 31, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.