literary gumbo

I've been reading a lot lately, and have collected a few quotes I've been meaning to share. It's messy and disorganized to lump them all together. There's no thread running through them that is immediately apparent to me. But I feel like I need to clear out my mental queue, so here you go:



…their resentment and anger exhibited their own bigotry: they looked down their nose at people who looked down their nose at people!

Tim Keller, Ministries of Mercy

I'm ashamed to say I'm just now beginning to see this particular sin of pride in my own life. If I deem someone to be inadequately pious in practice, I'm likely to start hucking stones at them. No wonder I have such a hard time getting through to people.

I've tweeted quotes from MoM several times. It's more practical than inspirational, so it's taken me several months to wade through. I appreciate the effort Keller takes to show the Scriptural case for undertaking ministries of mercy in the church; he loses me, though, when he gets into the nuts and bolts at the end of the book. Since the book was published in the mid-80's, I'd be curious to hear if Keller's perspective on any of those methods has changed.

Reading the book did help me realize something about my theology, though:

Mercy ministries are the mode and the means for both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

To be clear, those are not Keller's words but mine. They make up an as yet unchallenged and unsupported bit of personal theology, as evidenced by my actions, and may not be all that well-written to boot. I may yet decide they're not Scriptural. The idea, though, has certainly been foundational to the way I've seen the world. It's also been a point on which I've been known to be quite judgmental, as the first Keller quote reveals.

All five of my readers are welcome to comment if inclined.




Latin, "Christ, the only King", behind the title page in The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. This may very well get worked into my next tattoo.



On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God and yet hating Him; born to love Him, living instead in fear and hopeless self-contradictory hungers.

Merton, ibid.

The opening lines of Seven Storey Mountain. One of the best literary openings I've read, I think. Meaty. Captivating.



The devil is no fool. He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell. He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin. And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows, not by clarity and substance but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis. And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding the truth out about anything.

Merton, ibid.

Merton's been talking in a sort of detached way about the deep-seated fear of Catholicism held by his grandfather who raised him. Then this. Right to the heart of the matter. Just my kind of thing. Look no further than our current political process to see this worked out before your very eyes.

I've just started it, but I think I can recommend Merton's "autobiography of faith" to those of you who haven't read it. Thanks again, Matt, for suggesting it.