Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

16 June 2005
  A Little Ambrosia: A Cup of Bierce


Ambrose Bierce, may have been Mark Twain's near equal in intellect and humor, and far exceeded him in savage wit. Of course, that makes him one of the Aardvark's favorite writers. Bierce is most remembered for The Devil's Dictionary, a satirical parody of the genre which mercilessly lampooned the society in which Bierce found himself.

As a Christian, and especially as a pastor, I cannot keep his definition of "Christian" out of my head:
One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
Here he nails not just the hypocrite and the clueless pew-sitter. All of us suffer this indictment to some degree.

The Old Adam seems to have a built in translation program: It can hear the Ten Commandments and twist each "you shall" into "he should" and "she should." Our sinful natures turn the absolutes of the Law into sliding scales so we might attempt to get away with as much as possible without stepping into our own imagined transgressions.

While his "teachings of Christ" doubtless centered around Jesus' preaching the Law, we cannot argue that we rightly understand and correctly apply the Gospel any more than we do the Law. Neither forgiving nor asking forgiveness comes easily to most of us. We turn the liberty granted by the forgiveness of sins into license and bring harm to our neighbor through word and deed.

Perhaps nothing in our lives better proves Bierce's point than does our understanding and application of Christ's imperative, "Judge not, that you not be judged." Constantly we weigh our faults against those of our neighbor and seldom (thanks to thumbs judiciously placed upon the scales) do we find ourselves wanting.

So rather than compound our guilt by holding Bierce's condemnation up before others, would we not be better off by holding it before our own faces?
 
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