Old Lifey

In my (all about mmmmmeeeeEEE) estimation, the Coen brothers worst movies were Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. I have seen each only once and the thought of re-viewing does not generate the pheromones that their other movies do. (Recently watched Hail, Caesar! and experienced much mirth.) I am not sure what happened on these movies, but I’ve always felt Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers were the kind of productions the Hollywood system would yield if trying to be Coenesque. It’s like Hollywood trying to give that Coen Brothers’ feel (and remember what Hollywood did when it tried to bring to the screen that Barton Fink feeling.)

All of which is to say that when Justin Taylor praises cynicism (granted in the voice of Carl Trueman), you begin to wonder if The Gospel Coalition is trying to produce something not quite so pietistic.

Here’s Trueman:

And that is why church historians play such an important role and our cynicism is such a boon. Church history keeps things in perspective. Through reading the texts and studying the actions and events of the past we can truly say that we have seen it all before. Thus, whatever it is that the latest guru is suggesting, it definitely will not work as well as expected, probably will not work at all, and anyway it will be a hundred years or more before we can say whether it made a real difference or not.

Here’s Taylor:

Of course, cynicism is not the only thing a historian offers to the church, and cynicism by itself can be a vice and not a virtue. Neverthless, Trueman is right. We should listen to those who have a built-in skepticism about the latest hype because they know enough to have a proper perspective.

Seriously? Has anyone at TGC listened to any of the skepticism about the hype of celebrity pastors and the alliances they form?

It’s not history that teaches you to take the Allies of the gospel with a grain of salt, it’s doctrine of the church. Don’t do ministry without one.

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If God Laughs, Why Can’t I?

1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.” (Ps. 2)

P. J. O’Rourke helps me laugh. He has long alerted me (along with H. L. Mencken) to the pretensions and folly of uplifters, politicians, and do-gooders.

But when the world needs fixing, some find O’Rourke less funny:

That Mr. O’Rourke’s talents lay in finding and exposing hypocrisy and self-serving fantasy rather than making constructive arguments or proposals was no bar to enjoying his work. Nor was the fact that his was a libertarian rather than a conservative viewpoint. The drugs, the booze, and the womanizing pretty clearly indicated his cultural viewpoint and limitations. Still, for those like me who were young and stupid, he seemed a kind of swashbuckling privateer, taking down the enemy’s ships in a manner often fun to watch, if less than ennobling to anyone concerned. There was an immature “cool” to P.J. O’Rourke, the self-described “Republican Party Reptile,” which even his too often lazy approach to book-writing and his childish antics seemed not to erase.

Then some of us grew up. We began to recognize that Mr. O’Rourke’s ridicule was doing nothing to embarrass let alone stymie its targets, who lack any capacity for serious examination of conscience for the simple reason that they have assigned their consciences to the abstract principles of their ideology. In addition, we—especially those of us who were conservative from the start, but also those who simply grew into it—began to lead lives that left little room for childish antics. We found good women to marry, had children, and began raising them. Having begun the lives for which we are intended, we also soon recognized that the antics, entertainments, and even the politics of the college student are inappropriate for enjoyment or use in the home, even as they lack the power or even intent to protect that home.

Bruce Frohnen might have a point if he also pointed out that our politicians and policy analysts also think and talk a lot like children. That is, they continue to act and talk and look for votes and solicit funding on the basis of telling taxpayers and foundations and government officials that they can truly change the world.

But if the world can’t be changed, if sin and misery are par for this earthly course, then we need all the more those pundits who cut through the thin veneer of civilization and notice how pretentious are many of the fig leaves we use to cover our feeble and frail estate. Even better are those opinion writers who apply their skepticism to themselves, as O’Rourke does:

I thought there was a Republican Establishment who was supposed to keep things like Trump or, for that matter, Cruz from happening, and then I realized, no, they’re all dead. I’m the Republican Establishment now.