EvangellyfishEvangellyfish by Douglas Wilson

It was with some reluctance I received the book. I think of Douglas Wilson as a bit of a blowhard, so I was surprised to find the book has wisdom. It is funny, hard to put down, not often lagging, and in the end comes out a good enough book. I wish I could write something as interesting. I am glad somebody pressed it upon me.

The book has an awful lot of sex, in the sense that it comes to light that it is an activity rather copiously and indiscriminately indulged. I do not mean that the activity itself is described. The plot revolves around a megachurch pastor and his staff. When he is accused by some schemer of having made improper advances on another man, a false accusation, the roaches start scrambling because an investigation of any sort is going to find monstrous improprieties. Wilson tells it all with dry relish, with somewhat restrained slang and a certain richness of metaphor and simile. There is a knowing, omniscient narrator that is part of the point of the book. And I think the point of the book is made with (for me) surprising insight and wisdom.

Here is what I appreciated.

1. That the hero of the story is a Reformed Baptist pastor. Reformed Baptists do see themselves as part of the reformed world in a way that other reformed denominations do not always seem to recognize. It is as if baptism were done in a deep pool at the bottom of a deeper chasm, putatively narrow but unbridgeable. It is cheering that Wilson made the guy who is the real deal and who makes a difference in his story one of the Lord’s toilers, and it is further gratifying to see he even makes the high point of the story a Baptist baptism. Generous and ingenious both.

2. I appreciated that however heavy the portrayal of the roach-nest megachurch, there was not a bitter residual indignation. It was done in good humor, which is not a bad way to take the human condition. Black humor I can take in Wilsonian doses, no fear. Humor is about our sense of proportion, and it certainly helps to have humor when what is portrayed is a violation of all sense of proportion. What else is a megachurch? There is a place for sentiments similar or approaching wrath when what takes place is described, but it is usually not from the outside. Wilson may know, but he is on the outside. Hypocrisy is hard to bear with, and one of the problems we humans have accusing one another is that we can easily lose perspective when we are filled with wrath and indignation, at least I do. I think Wilson deftly portrays his scumbags. And the good guys? The deal with their sins, that’s what.

3. Because of that, one is left resolved never to enter a megachurch again or to associate with the whole culture of rock band, staged stuff, screens, emergent, wholesale youth groups . . .all that roachworld of evangelical scam religion. I thought it was tremendous. Bang-on when it comes to affections, Jeeves. I know evangelicals do not judge, but I still do, and Wilson helps.

Here are my misgivings.

1. I have been warned about American Christian views of sex in marriage. There is a tendency to idolize the teenage romance, the stage which is perhaps more passion and lust than otherwise. The American Christian (notice I’m not saying evangelical, though that is obviously included) view seems to be that a good marriage is one in which that stage of lust and passion is permanently preserved, rather than conceiving of a maturing relationship. One of the things Wilson is doing with his good guy is endeavoring to portray a vigorous and wholesome view of the activity which dominates the whole of his book. I personally would not go to him for advice on this score, rather relying on a more polite and sensible English spinster for such topics: Jane Austen. I think what Wilson does just reflects American Christian romantic views, and I would rather manage my marriage on more discerning principles.

2. I do not believe that modesty or judgment are about lines drawn, though I understand lines are eventually drawn. What I mean is that what was immodest yesterday may no longer be immodest today, and the same goes for how we speak about things. It is a matter not of guidelines promoted to laws, but a matter of understanding and of discernment which is demonstrated in good judgment. I say all this because Wilson’s language is not quite of tame expression, though anybody who reads any contemporary writing will hardly find cause to complain. His expression transgresses (or did back in 2012) the boundaries of, for example, Tim Challies. I think Wilson ought to be given latitude. I do think in some cases he goes beyond what is necessary to the effect he needs, and he is undoubtedly sometimes callously glib. I wish he would think more about the effect of his expression, though he obviously does. On the other hand, this is the society we live in, the sound of people’s speech is still sanitized, rather than in detail depicted, and what precedent does he have to rely upon? Mine is a quibble, not a general complaint. I do not think he ought to be censured, I just think he could do a bit better.

3. My biggest complaint against Wilson is his use of figurative language. Now here is a person who is obviously intent on making great use of metaphors and similes and all such. He often does it well. But I think he could do it better. There are nobler and less noble areas of life from which to draw your similes. Similes from nature have an effect different from similes from technology, for example, and I wonder if Wilson discriminates sufficiently. Wilson is exuberant in his use, relishing impact sometimes to excess, I think. I wish he were more prudent in considering the effect. Who am I to judge Wilson in this? Well, I do. Let it be a lesson to me.

It is an exuberant book, and that is why I liked it. In the end, Wilson not only depicts a roachworld megachurch, but also the real thing. And he is good at the real thing. What he is trying to do is contrast false and true religion, and the contrast is deftly made. If you have a hearty appetite for black-humorous fast-paced stories of wildly not altogether inaccurate similes, try this.

New York, the City

Hamilton, NJ, the Transit Hub

There is a disturbance, then a roar. The Amtrak tube lashes through, shaking the foundations. You glimpse it in a blur. It diminishes, it is gone, and the birdsong is loud in the aftermath. The birds have made their nests around the platforms, indifferent to the power and the glory of the trains.

No attendants on duty. You buy your ticket from a touchscreen and you read the signs. The slower NJ Transit trains use the two outer tracks, the Amtrak goes on the inner two. Concrete sleepers covered in grey rocks under the wires stretch away to both horizons, and that is all.

The NJ Transit

Not newer models, the trains. Mass transit is about efficiency of access and unencumbered transportation: this is what they do, in measurable, great quantity. Trains have their own way: they glide and have their sounds: the rush, the clack of slowing down, the lonely whistle, the hum. Three seats on one side, two on the other on the one-tier trains. Old plastic, scratched windows, the conductor only occasionally friendly and all business. The intercom squawks semi-intelligibly.

It feels like a step back in time, except that everybody is using small screens. No newspapers, no magazines, no books, just little screens and wires into the head.

New Jersey flashes by between stations. Princeton Junction, New Brunswick (Rutgers), and then the industrial wasteland and marshes. New Jersey, as you approach New York, seems like a place where they tried but failed to extend the city. Eventually you descend into darkness.

Pennsylvania Station

The darkness that leads out of New Jersey brings one to the dim underworld of New York. Pennsylvania Station is a functional place, and down on the platforms a dreary location indeed. The dead trudge up the stairs into the waiting areas of that underground complex. They spread out toward the various exits and join the living on New York’s teeming sidewalks. I Tiresias have walked among them. I have seen the wires coming from their ears, connecting them to their batteries, carrying them through the lower regions.

In the evening ticket holders wait for a track to be announced, and then rush down as soon as they can to get each man his seat down in that dim underworld, in the humming train that will bear them back to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


There was pizza. $1 for a cheese slice, and $3 for the other options. Warm pizza of the morning. The attendants speak to the customer in the customary English, and then shout at each other in Spanish. Efficiency is the rule in New York City. Don’t dawdle, don’t hang back, don’t be dumb. Know thy mind, if indeed thou hast one, thou idiot. The beckoning small pizza places angle into the structure of the city, wedged away in slices.

The Frick

A low place where tall structures are in demand, a breach in the ramparts surrounding Central Park, the Frick. A lawn even, and more unusually, a lawnmower. Inside: the bag inspection, the coat check, the inefficient dispatch of tickets, the guard who lectures and indicates, and after all the preliminaries the collection. It is a house of treasures: Vermeer, Gainsborough, Reynolds, van Dyck, Corot, Holbein (More and Cromwell), and two magnificent enormous Turners. The dead creep through it, listening to handheld devices, sitting often, dressed variously but mostly well, upscale. Good lighting on the art and a dimmer building, the sense of a house: dining room, hall, library, gallery, oval room, etc. The Frick has nothing contemporary, for it was Frick’s own collection made one hundred years ago or so. I Tiresias, blind seer of Athens, looked on what had been.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A tourist destination. Crowded stairs, slow entrance, bag inspection, statistical registration I Tiresias did avoid, unnoticed as at Thebes below the wall. Throngs of the dead like autumn leaves there. These dissipate. The dead congregate in the impressionist galleries, but not in the remoter 17th Century galleries. A vast place and somewhat seedy for seeing so much volume, so many dead. No meager collection, but functional galleries, and some living moments in galleries where the statues are about to come to life, impatient with the dead. The worn parquet, the foot-high ropes, the tramp of feet and murmur, the indescribable pastel paint on the walls is mostly all. The dead blow though, watched by the drowsy guards. The fierce statues disdain to exhibit life, waiting for the dead to pass. I Tiresias stared into those souls, stared into the round eyes of quintuped Assyrian cherubim. What a race, the Assyrian: beards and wings and bunched calf muscles.

I went as the swallow goes, to get a sense of it. If one is going to see the Met and absorb anything at all, one has to stay in the city, one has to arrive early and late, one has to have copious time if one is not to see it as the dead do. The dead file past the statues, up the staircases and down. I went among them, I Tiresias, and when I had finished drifting along with them I emerged, not even a statistic for the quantitative.

Dulce Vida

Lexington Ave. Crammed against a panel of glass facing the sidewalk. Ajiaco, maracuya, aguepanela, sancocho. Sweet corn—so out of place—and auyama. Good green sauce, authentically Mexican in a Colombian restaurant. The usual incongruity. A Brazilian waiter, solicitous, trilingual. Quick service, Colombianly awkward.

New York Public Library

Of its many locations, I went to the classical building that hove into view a few blocks west of Park Ave. The steps were thronged for a medieval event: an outdoor performance drawing great applause. The living congregated there, and the dead were on the fringes, hoping to understand. A line led in, a bag inspection, a splendid building, some celebrants. Steep stairs, a well-kept place. The dead milled in it, sat pointlessly at the top, engaged the desperate memorial of photography with their little screens, gesturing on their surfaces. I Tiresias watched their wish to even wish anything at all dismayed. Backstairways lead to vast hallways, past the reliquaries and into the world of life again.

Juan Valdez Coffee

The stark modern interior, of a dark variety. The attendant who did not speak audibly. The latte they call café con leche. The old lady sneaking in to use the counter without buying anything. The hulking transvestite. The attendant coming to stare at the impertinent old lady. The young woman going through her email on a mackintosh computer. The Slavic conversation of some emotion. The light roast from Huila in the red packaging. The leg of Tiresias fell asleep.

Grand Central Station

They go with purpose under that vast canopy, those wells of light, that spacious crossing of the paths of all the world. Ramps lead to the bowels of the city. Wrought and industrial iron, marble, the everlasting sound of throngs that move with purpose.

Bubble Tea

Is it not one of the consolations of the age? A limited menu, three Asian girls, the wait, the crowded premises, the odd machinery. Good strong black tea, the creamy milk, the tapioca bubbles, the ingenious large straw and the sealed package. The chewy slugs are soft and swift, and the moment passes. There are few urban consolations like straightforward bubble tea.

150, and the Sidewalks

From 30th north to 86th, south to 10th and back up to 30th = 140 blocks. From as far west as Columbus Circle to Lexington Ave in the east, another 10 in zigs and zags. With musea and other distractions, a good days of walking = 150 blocks at least. I Tiresias have seen the city, and there is enough of it. The surge across the streets with all the living intermingling and so many different embodied souls to see can be endlessly repeated. I have seen Jewish gentlemen in a comfortable interiors that advertise kosher chicken soup. I have been among the smoking hot-dog stands with kebabs and emanating middle-eastern music. I have noticed glasses and cloth napkins, plain and elegant booths, counters, steaming trays of food, pretzels and pizza, coffee, donuts and animated conversations. The buildings rise, rank upon rank, various, splendid, curious, dull, and renewed as the city renews itself, that strong, great city. New York City Ferrari, art supplies, instruments of music, oysters for $1, theaters, billboards and vast churches.

And I know that what New York City doth not have, doth not matter.


I’ve noticed that people from around here don’t talk about going to see Delaware. Many places are mentioned, but Delaware is not. So we went to see Delaware. It isn’t far and nobody ever talks about going to check out Delaware.

If you pay attention to your junk mail you may have noticed how many financial things come from Wilmington, DE. Downtown Wilmington is just one large bank building after the other: Chase, PNC, Citizens, Bank of the Pumpkin, etc. That is what they do. It is a hilly place, located between the Brandywine and the Christina Rivers, and has river walks along both that are pleasant. The Brandywine is a cheerful stream in a gorge. The Christina is tidal, with seafowl and rusting railroads.

It looks like Baltimore often, with small rowhouses on straight streets. We have rowhouses in Philadelphia of all kinds, but when they’re on straight streets they tend to be impressive, if they’re on narrow streets they are quaint, and if they’re on windy streets they are jumbly. Wilmington has nice little rowhouses and then the hood rowhouses, from what I can tell. The hood is downhill from downtown—one of the hoods at least. I don’t mind driving through the hood since it reminds me of the third world, so it is familiar, and I have an old car, so I fit in. Beside rowhouses they do pizza and fried chicken in Wilmington, and I saw three yellow and green Jamaican restaurants.

We walked: that’s what we do. It’s a good place for walking and it was a good day. We walked for an hour and a half before lunch and an hour and a half after lunch. Walking in a place you’ve never been to before is my idea of traveling, as long as the place has things to notice you are not sorry to be noticing. I even walk in suburban settings, but prefer the city. In Wilmington we got all city. It was great. For such a small place, it was very, very great.

They do seafood in Wilmington. I guess the closer you get to the coast the more they start using seafood. That’s the rule. We did not go with the seafood, however. We went with the $3 hamburgers and $3 fries at one of these modern day food courts not consisting of restaurant chains and without an attached mall called a market: such as the North Market in Columbus or the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. This one was considerably smaller than either, but had more available seating. The pizza place and the steak shop were separate, which you’d never see in Philadelphia. They had a generic burrito place too, which I’ve never seen before. It was very unusual for me. I think they’re really trying to push that waterfront walk, for health and restaurants.

Returning to the hamburgers, they had a guy dressed as a chef doing most of the honors and they were clearly not used to handling volume. (Look, I know about volume; I worked at MacDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s—these places do volume; these guys did not know how to handle volume, believe me.) But they knew the importance of the pickle, and that says a lot. These were no thin-sliced rounds, but over a quarter of an inch thick. Very impressive. Impractical on a hamburger, but still, the principle of the thing is right. You take it out, you eat it, it is good. Very good. It was the best pickle I’ve had since I don’t know when. Most restaurants neglect the importance of the pickle, but this nameless place somewhere near the train station in Wilmington does not neglect it. It was a fine pickle. It did not taste like the things you get in a jar at the grocery store. It did not taste like the thing that comes on your plate beside your fries at most restaurants. It tasted like neither of these standard flavors of pickle you get in the USA always and everywhere. It tasted like a really good pickle, and it was a testimony to the enduring importance of the pickle. Proper pickles, even if only a slice of one, are key. Everything else followed from that, so it is a good place.

Tomorrow we are probably going to try NYC, having done Wilmington. I hope those guys out there have places where you can get a good pickle. The importance of the pickle has come home to me like never before, and all because I went to Wilmington Delaware. I am very glad I went. I thought it was a great place. Very.

Barnes Foundation

There was a chap called Alfred Barnes who bought a lot of paintings and other objects of art. He apparently had an odd theory about how to arrange the art (mostly impressionists, mainly Renoir with his hazy blends of color and chubby nudes, I’ll take Pissarro and Sisley over Renoir and Monet any day) and left an order in his will not to disturb it. Eventually Philadelphia got a federal judge to let them grab his collection, they kicked the boy scouts out of their ancient headquarters downtown (being in disfavor for not being too keen on sexual perverts) and set up the collection there. It is a large modern place, with grounds not unpleasant and lots of space. They have a library, an auditorium, rooms for meetings and lounging around, and of course, in a corner, the collection.

You walk through the large building wondering where the thing begins, and when you reach it you are lectured rather sternly by a guard. The guards throughout are rather more than less obtrusive, reminding persons of the rules. You have these crowded galleries with mostly unlabeled paintings, lines on the floor that limit your proximity to the objects, and no way to stay before anything long without being rude. Most people go through listening on headphones jacked into their electronics, and they mill around those disconcertingly packed places ignoring each other.

There are printed guides in the galleries you can look into if the frame isn’t labeled or you can’t recognize the painting. One good thing was that I was pleased at how many I could recognize—Cezane, El Greco, Matisse, and various others. I’ve been going to art galleries and pondering them and it appears to have had a cumulative payoff.

It is too bad they have to have the collection the way they do, but I think they have to honor Barnes’ eccentric notions of displaying art. They have enough room in there to range the pieces out at standard and humane intervals to allow for real museum musing and edification, but that is alas not what you get. I thought it was a crowded day, but the guard told me it was one of the lighter ones. Crowded galleries where people mill around ignoring each other, or worse, are jacked into technology is just not my idea.

I propose at least one long gallery with suitably spaced objects from the collection into which persons can trickle, never in large groups, so that things may be appreciated. Just keep the rest of it, but rotate bits of the collection trough the long gallery.

It is otherwise a pleasant place, well-kept and well-appointed, and since it is free to students, very worth the price. I’ll be stopping in to buzz through and make friends with some of the works as time allows.

A Return of Humanity

Semesters at Westminster have long conclusions. Classes end, then papers are due, and then exams descend on the unfortunate. I don’t have finals and postgraduate papers are due a week after graduate papers are due, giving me a clean week after classes end. Is it that the deadlines are determined by the institution? I never had the sense at Central that the administration set the deadlines or flogged the faculty the way one sometimes gathers it happens at Westminster. Anyway, whatever the cause, the effect is that the end is not the end. And if one goes with the sense of things, the way I do, stressing out about May deadlines in February, it seems like those last deadlines come dawdling at the end.

If one turns papers in early, one suspects, the teacher will think one a slacker. I actually don’t think the great man will think this of me, but I am haunted by the ghost of Milliman who did not take kindly to my turning in an exam before the absolute last moment, or hints of any effort less than prostrating. The great man does not care if I’m sweating or not, which is what is so cool about him.

It has been a long one, however, since the January class immersed me and kept me under when the spring semester started. As a result, I did not have as humane a semester as I would have liked. I had to give up on the theory of learning German, and for a while all my reading was entirely subsumed in academic concerns. The great man advised me against that too—everlasting be his happy memory—and I did recover somewhat from that abandonment. Pepys was read, Lewis and poetry, and murder mysteries were duly watched. One does not want to become an academic.

But it was on the whole a semester not characterized by the requisite humanity. I’m thinking about it now, as I come to Target to make myself go through the essays I’ve compounded one more time. I watch the people and I note the faces. There was a very determined kid with a very interesting face in here just now. There’s a group of very old ladies, very small and old ladies, who having done a bit of shopping are waiting for the ride back. I wonder what they think of the world. I’m awfully curious about them, and I attribute that to a return to humanity.

These transitional weeks are difficult. I’m in free-fall because the structure of the semester is dissolving, but figuring out the productive configuration for the summer takes a while and some effort. How to make the time count is the great question. I’m reviving varied reading, I’m looking at my story (bleh), starting a weird new one, I’m thinking about poetry, I’m going to learn to play Libertango on my accordion, I have places to walk, pizza to try, painting to attempt, Latin to improve, and German to enter into. These need a good configuration in order to achieve the kind of satisfaction of accomplishment that will allow me to knock off sometime in the evening and do otherwise enjoyable things.

One of the things happening to me right now is in Spanish. Because we do this mostly weekly podcast, a friend and I, I’ve been preparing for it. What usually happens to me whenever I’m preparing to teach or speak on anything is that I begin to rehearse it in imagination. So as I walked around the park this morning reading Frend on martyrdom I began explaining what I was understanding, mentally and in Spanish talking to myself. It is just how I do things; and it seems to be kicking in more now that I’ve finished classes. It makes the hour and a half or two I spend a week speaking in Spanish stretch out, so that there’s a lot more Spanish in my life as a consequence of my talking to myself in Spanish. I do it when I teach in English too, of course, and I find I end up preparing according to the language I teach in, so I’m grateful this is in Spanish. Part of it is searching for correct expressions and the right terms, and one’s concern not to be caught in the moment trying to figure out how the emperor Trajan’s name is pronounced in Spanish (he was, after all, from near Seville; Trajano, it turns out, not unlike what you’d expect, the j being a velar fricative, as it usually is).

So that’s humane.

Politics, in the meantime, gives life its doom and fun, reminding me that all is not cheerful green grass and poetry, and that the expectations of the foolish are soon crushed. You know, I have never read so many insightful things as this season has brought down on us. One of the things I observe is this: the sensible and moderate reaction to everything going on is not what is usually making the news. One thing all this sense of imminent collapse makes people do is figure out how to preserve what is threatened. And what could be more conservative than that? One thousand years from now, what will they make of us and of our age? They’ll speak with awe of Roger Scruton if they have managed to raise up any worthwhile civilization, that’s what.

Conversations and Fun

Well, it looks like Trump has sewn it up.

He is well on the way to destroying the Republican party and we are well on the way to having a third party candidate, which may forever fracture the two party system we got and was yielding the results we have been so steadily getting for so long. The change ought to be interesting, don’t you think?

I think so.

* * *

Had a conversation with someone used to the kind of preaching that searches you inwardly and leaves you feeling something got accomplished, the true Reformed Baptist way, and, I sometimes think, the reason their churches are small when nothing otherwise strange goes on. They don’t do that in the OPC, more cerebral and . . . nice. There’s no judging of any sort. It seemed to me pretty effete at first, but I understand it better now. There is no way to explain it to someone who is still in withdrawal from the RB way without looking like a compromiser. This is a guy who uses his lunch break to go out street preaching, so I’m going to look like a compromiser no matter what I say. And yet I think: Do you always ratchet things up to the maximum? Should you usually? Is everybody strung for that?

What is your vision of Christian commitment? What about a place for low-commitment Christians like Roger Scruton, if he is one? Of for those who are so ashamed of evangelicals they have legitimate concerns about identifying with Christ? For a Christian, for example, with the sensibility of Borges?

To draw it back to something more probable: What about a place where there is both severity and tenderness in equal amounts? Not sure that will happen, though everyone in the USA who doesn’t want to be labelled inscrutable or anomalous better say his church pretty much usually nails the balance. The world is full of interesting variety, and I wonder if there is any place where persons do not chose to err. To make what I’m getting at more visible: would it be possible for me to do something without choosing to err? I wonder if that’s the challenge for our time: choosing the least worst error.

Even the young believe that now, at least where I am: they readily settle for seeing if they can find the least worst error. I would not be surprised if everywhere they believe that. Perhaps people always have and I’m only just now getting it. I was watching the Pride & Prejudice Katrina was ironing to and realized that people dress up to try to look as well as possible, without any qualms. I have never in my life done that, and it is largely due to ignorance of what most people were doing. I overheard a conversation filled with relief recently. The chap had figured out how to move from the PCUSA to the EPC. Many were glad. I have found that people have reasons for staying in the PCA while attending OP churches. I ask questions others find obvious and therefore suspicious. I’m just trying to figure out what exactly they think they’re doing.

Here is another kind of interesting conversation we get up to around here: the one about presuppositionalism. People grow up in that environment for all practical purposes believing Plato, Aristotle and Socrates were morons. It shelters them from anything secular when it comes to education, frowning politely but firmly on Classical education. I had one recently who told me he had been listening to secular lectures on life, the universe and everything. I would have said lectures by a professor at Harvard or the U of North Carolina or what have you; but he said ‘secular’. And he thought they had a point, knew what they were talking about. It was the weirdest thing for me, as weird as it was for him when I told him that most of the music produced in my lifetime was off bounds to me growing up. For me, the wrong music would lead me down the wide way that leads to destruction, for him, its secular teaching full as it is of obvious contradictions and autonomous reason.

I am, by the way, ready to conclude that the common grace thing is irrational. I have even stuck it in a paper. If common grace operates in spite of what humans are trying to do, when does it enter the process? At the end, like magic? Or does it penetrate subtly throughout, leavening what human kind achieves? If the latter, how can you discern to understand what is done rightly and what wrongly? And if you can’t discern, how can you evaluate? When human discernment is excluded, human endeavor is condemned. All human endeavor is condemned: everybody’s, including the presuppositionalists. This is a good dilemma for understanding soteriology, but it is a good way of understanding every human activity, anything at all other than soteriology? It is irrational to posit that common grace inexplicably leaks in.

So one finds the intolerant of Van Til and has conversations, and steadily works out what’s wrong and nourishes one’s dissent. (The dissenters are Thomists; I’m the only real free-standing Platonist around here; and it makes it obvious to me that the book on Platonism from Origen to C. S. Lewis has to be written.) It’s fun because you have the thrill of being in the minority, carefully thinking your way free of the nets and arguments, preparing for the coming confrontation. And it all goes to show that any place has its fun.


“According to your faith be it done to you.”

Which means, it seems to me, that the Son of God is able to be, in one sense, anything at all. He is able to because he is inexhaustible.

Now Divine Inexhaustibility is not usually construed as an attribute, but it is the corollary of Divine Infinity: God is an infinite being, and there is a sense in which you cannot expect too much of him. I do not mean that God is anything at all, whatever you please, but that you cannot possibly think too well of God: whatever good you can think, he is beyond it more. He is best and greatest to an incomprehensible because absolute degree.

The two blind men in Matthew 9:27-31 hear these words from the Lord, and I think the point of the saying is to demonstrate that Christ is the healer of the blind because this is nothing to him. He came to do greater things, but in his condescending to come at all he will not avoid the lesser task: it is nothing to him and it is much to them. How much, though?

Our Lord spoke of faith as a kind of spiritual understanding—I think that is the point of saying it is great or small: you understand much or little in terms of the object: himself. It seems to me that is one of the things going on in the Gospel according to Matthew, faith as spiritual understanding. According to your spiritual understanding be it done to you, we might paraphrase.

And it goes for understanding Scripture because there is no separating of Christ from it. Christ is spiritual reality, just as, to illustrate from something else, Nous is the intelligible realm where the objects of intellection are located. The objects of faith are not bare objects but instead a subject who comprehends all there is spiritually to understand. Faith is personal and participative, then, and that is why you see two men shouting, being led into a house, and opening for the first time their eyes to look on . . . what? On the Savior; that is simply how it is, and it is inexhaustibly much.