That Was the Day

I think I listened to this game on a transistor (not transformationalist) radio:

After Bunning set the Giants down 1-2-3 in the seventh, Philadelphia took the lead in the eighth on an unearned run. Gonzalez led off with a single. Richie Allen walked with one out. Marichal induced a ground ball from Johnny Callison that might have ended the inning. However, reserve infielder Bob Schroder failed to handle it, and a run scored.

Bunning failed to hold the lead in the bottom of eighth. He retired Alou to begin the inning, but Haller homered for the second time to tie the game.

With the two Willies, Mays and McCovey, up next, a modern manager would likely have pulled Bunning. The Phillies had a strong bullpen, anchored by the two Dicks, Hall and Farrell. But manager Gene Mauch stayed with his ace.

Bunning got Mays on a pop-up, walked McCovey (pitching very carefully, I assume), and then retired Jim Davenport.

Marichal had allowed four runs, eight hits, and two walks through eight innings. Giants manager Herman Franks had good relievers available — Ron Herbal, Bill Henry, and Frank Linzy (ERA 0.60). Yet, like Mauch, Franks stayed with his ace.

Marichal retired Tony Taylor, who led off the inning. Bunning was the next scheduled batter. Surely, Mauch would send up a pinch hitter to bat for his tiring pitcher.

But Bunning stayed in. He wasn’t a bad hitting pitcher. Early in his career, he was a .200 hitter. But by 1967, he had fallen off at the plate. Coming into this game, he was batting .125.

Bunning did have one home run, though. It came at the expense of Atlanta’s Ken Johnson, and was the fifth of his long career.

On this day, he hit his sixth. How embarrassed must the prideful Marichal must have been!

Bunning had given the Phils a 5-4 lead. Now he had to be his own closer.

No problem. In the bottom of the ninth, he set down the Giants in order — Brown on a fly ball, Schroder on a ground ball, and pinch hitter Norm Siebern, an old American League adversary, on another grounder.

Will the Real Exilic Christians Stand Up?

With all the discussion of Christians having the best chance to endure in the coming winter of dislocation, I was shocked SHOCKED to see no mention of the Amish. Say what you will about Anabaptists, but I don’t know how any respectable Christian — Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox — can think he is all that prepared for exilic conditions without at least contemplating the way the Amish have lived in exile.

If you are going to talk about Christian community, I don’t know how a set of people who gathers for one service on Sunday (okay, good Presbyterians gather twice), coming from sometimes as far away as a one-hour drive, and maybe for a mid-week Bible study or prayer meeting qualifies as anything more than the membership you experience at the local Moose Lodge. And if you’re going to talk about transformationalism, the Amish have a record of forming real culture according to a religious w-w that goes back farther than Kuyper or Edwards. (Of course, Benedict goes back farther, but given the matter of celibacy and procreation, the Benedictine model is hardly going to survive as a community-building practice.)

Sure, Anabaptist theology has problems. But when Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox can form communities with the kind of coherence that the Amish have, then we should all stop talking about exile and community. Instead, lets consider the benefits of spiritual disciplines that provide a welcome add-on to lives already well defined by economic, political, communication, education (the list goes on) systems well beyond the control of the faithful.

With that in mind, consider this excerpt from the New Republic:

Smucker then launched into a brief history of the Amish, explaining that what began three centuries ago as a handful of families escaping persecution in Europe by sailing for the nascent Pennsylvania colony is today 273,700 adults and children spread across 30 states and the Canadian province of Ontario. (Though two-thirds of them have remained in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.)

Amish belief then as now is completely grounded in the New Testament, which they hold to be the sole and final authority on all things. From it, they take their impetus to remain separate (“and be not conformed to this world”—Romans 12:2), as well as their orders to renounce violence in all spheres of human life, to refuse to swear oaths, and to obey literally the teachings of Jesus Christ. Still, they shun their undisciplined and wayward, to make it a little easier to keep the community of faith intact.

And the Amish are a true community, in every sense of the word. They believe that what we call “individualism” is actually pride, or, more bluntly, selfishness, which opposes God’s will, which should be yielded to with a dedicated heart. This communal spirit is regulated by an unwritten code of conduct, the Ordnung, which prescribes clothing and grooming and language, and prohibits things like divorce, military service, owning or operating automobiles, taking electricity from public power lines, and installing wall-to-wall carpet.

Basically, the Amish way of living argues implicitly that tradition is sacred, that preservation is as important or perhaps more important than progress, that obeying and yielding are virtuous, that the personal reality might not be the supreme. And in this way, above all else, they take the integrity of individual choice really, really seriously.

Or, as Smucker summed it up: “The Amish are very intentional. Whereas we just take on everything we’re offered without even thinking about it.” . . .

Baseball, he went on, was forbidden by church elders around 1995. Baptized men had been wearing uniforms, and traveling to play league matches, and neglecting their duties at home. So, now, the game is strictly for the unbaptized. What I saw in the schoolyard was the noncompetitive stuff all kids play until the eighth grade, when their formal education ends. (“Knowledge puffeth up”—1 Corinthians). The only ones who can ball for real are the boys who have entered Rumspringa, the few free years of “running around” in the secular world that the Amish allow their youth (and about which we make feature-length documentaries and National Geographic Channel reality shows).

Rumspringa—ostensibly a time for finding a mate—is a kind of inoculation. A manageable dosage of culture is introduced to unbaptized Amish, the hope being that this exposure will keep them from succumbing to the whole pathology later on. From their sixteenth birthday ’til their mid-twenties, they sample what they’ve been missing—cars, hip-hop, food courts, double plays. Then they make the biggest decision of their lives: get baptized and get married, or forsake their world for ours.

“The unbaptized, if they play competitively in uniforms, that means they’re from a faster, more liberal district,” Smucker told me. “But you can still tell they’re Amish by how they carry themselves.”

Epistemological Self-Consciousness, Intellectual Theonomy

What kind of a worldview does a wren exhibit when it sees the neighbor’s cat crouching in preparation to pounce and flies to the nearest telephone line? Is the bird’s knowledge of the feline species somehow diminished because he can’t theorize about his knowledge of cats and their objects of backyard prey?

What about a baseball player who can spot the difference between a curve and a four-seam fastball, all within a nanosecond, and swing his bat while uncoiling his body to launch the baseball into the right field stands? If the batter can’t explain his theory of hitting, if the Phillies won’t hire him when he retires to be a hitting coach, does that make his knowledge of crushing mistake pitches illegitimate? Does every batter have to be a Ted Williams for his hits to be certain and his runs-batted-in certified? Did Richie Allen not win the American League MVP for 1972 because he could not theorize about what he did in the batter’s box?

I have contemplated these two sets of questions recently while continuing my reflections on neo-Calvinism, worldview thinking, and a certain sector of the Reformed world’s infatuation with philosophy. Countless times I have encountered the argument that someone’s knowledge is not really knowledge because they have no epistemological foundation for it. The public high school teacher may be able to teach algebra but because she doesn’t know where the truths of math come from, she doesn’t really understand math. Or the elected official may understand that human life should be protected and vote for harsher penalties for manslaughter but unless he understands that human beings are created in the image of God, his vote is inauthentic.

Perhaps the best bumper sticker expression of this outlook comes from the Greg Bahnsen quotation that adorns Rabbi Bret’s blog:

In various forms, the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist is that the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. When the perspective of God’s revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the preconditions of knowledge and meaningful experience. To put it another way: the proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything.

But as the two examples above indicate, creatures have knowledge and understanding of the created order all the time without being able to give a theoretical account of such ideas or activities. Why isn’t knowledge of math and batting the human equivalent of the instincts and cunning that birds show when fleeing cats? Granted, human beings are more than natural; we have souls, minds, language capacities. But even these higher ranges of human existence are part and parcel of the way human beings operate on planet earth. Those higher ranges are natural to human beings. I see no compelling reason why we need to spiritualize of philosophize human activities that are simply analogous to what other creatures do.

Some neo-Calvinists and theonomists will object that such an understanding of human activity denies God and the relationship that all people have with him by virtue of creation. In other words, human beings should do everything that they do to the glory of God. To fail to connect the dots between algebra and doxology is to operate in a world of autonomy from God.

One possible response is to say that God may be as delighted by the batter’s ability to hit the ball as he is by the wren’s capacity to elude the cat. Which is to say that human beings in their creatureliness, in the games they play, the poems they memorize, the bridges they build, and the voyages they take, delight God because he created human beings precisely with the capacity to do these things. And if all of creation can praise to God, from the movement of the stars to the way cats clean themselves, then why can’t human life in its naturalness also give God glory as creator whether or not a human being is engaging in eating or playing or learning self-consciously to the glory of God. Why can’t it be the case that even despite the sinful natures that afflict all people, their existence and range of activities as created beings delight God simply as the fulfillment of his creation and providence in the same way that creatures without souls also give glory to God in accomplishing the ends for which they were created?

Of course, the paleo-Calvinist answers to these questions seem plausible to this paleo-Calvinist, but I would also venture an example from the spiritual world that could throw a wrench into the seemingly perpetual philosophical motion machine of neo-Calvinists. Aside from the batter or the wren, what about the regenerate believer who can’t tell the difference between Plato and Kant? What about the Christian who is not given to self-consciousness? Is his plumbing any less valuable or virtuous because he can’t conceive of a philosophically coherent system that will explain how his knowledge of the leak and his experience with fixing such leaks depends upon the ontological Trinity? If he simply begins his day asking for God’s blessing, thanks God for strength and sustenance, goes about his job, provides for his family, and leads family worship – that is, if he simply goes about his routine and seeks to honor his maker, but cannot fathom the theories that would turn his activities into the self-actualized doings of an epistemologically self-conscious believer, does that make his knowledge of plumbing, his love of family, and his enjoyment of pizza invalid?

I hope not.