Author: stephenhague

Academic Dean and a Professor of Biblical Studies at Faith Seminary in Baltimore.

Church, parachurch, or why church at all?

Church, parachurch, or why church at all?
(whole essay at Church, parachurch, or why church at all)

Questions: What means did Christ establish

church10

  • for the proclamation and preservation of the gospel in biblical history?
  • for properly organized and structured worship, reception of the Word of God, and
  • the accountability of discipline and discipleship through offices of authority
    for properly administering to the needs of the fellowship of believers?

Answer: The visible church of those who profess faith in Christ and live in obedience to his commands. This was true for OT Israel living under a theocracy and monarchy, the same as it is for the NT visible church today. In the OT, the visible church was characterized by the Priests’ administration of the sanctuary worship and application of the Word of God, the Elders and Prophets’ ministry of proclaiming and teaching the Word of God revealed and written, and by the kings’ service of administrating justice by upholding the law of God and defending the nation. In the NT, the visible church is characterized by the (priestly) administration of the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Table, the exposition of the Word (prophetic), and the upholding of the law and protecting the people of God through the administration of discipline properly applied to preserve, protect, and restore by the elders. Further protection and service is provided by the ministry of the Deacons. It is often said that the church is a “human institution,” but that is not what it is: it is God’s divinely appointed means to accomplish his work of redemption through Christ of his people and his world.

A serious question then is, why do so many people today abandon the visible church, and membership in the fellowship, for alternatives (such as “para-churches”)? Some will answer that they do not need the local church, since they are already members of the universal and invisible church. Perhaps they have been deeply scarred in a local church, or they had some very bad experiences there at some point, or they were in a church that was not orthodox, and they left never to return to a visible and established congregation. In all of these cases, it is easy to understand the rationale and justification for leaving a particularly bad situation.[1] The question is, nevertheless, whether it is wise to exclude oneself altogether from membership in the visible church (or to attach to alternative organizations). The local church is the place where our Lord’s Table is celebrated regularly, and where his death and resurrection are remembered and celebrated every Sunday, and where the Word of Scripture is taught consistently and fully, and where structures for training in righteousness (discipleship) are in place, and where the people of God are held accountable to Christ and to one another by one another, and where elders and deacons are called to serve these ends.

Do people often leave the visible church planning to find a better alternative, one of the many more glamorous alternatives (such as “para-churches”), because they sincerely believe the church failed them, and is failing in its mission, because it has so many problems, because there are so many sinners there not living in obedience? With such claims, the question is do they really believe it will be easier to do the work of the Kingdom outside of Christ’s ordained means and visible institution (to use imperfect sinners living under grace), while working with different sinners in different contexts and structures that do not align fully with a biblical model or precedent?

What does Christ command us to do in the visible church? To remember him. To celebrate his Table of remembrance, to establish proper structure of authority, to obey his commands with accountability, to have his word dwell in us richly, to pray together. How is this possible? The best way, perhaps the only way, to experience the blessings of membership in his universal, “invisible” church is to be a member of his visible church. Indeed, I think it would be difficult to rightly claim membership in the universal church unless we are committed to real people in a real locale in a real and visible church under the real authority of elders and deacons given by Christ to serve the mission of the advancement of the gospel and the Kingdom through the visible body of Christ. In this way, our presence and service in the visible church is evidence (yet, not proof of salvation or a proposal of works-righteousness here) of our membership in the universal church. In this way, our membership in a local body of believers is the acknowledgement that we cannot do this alone, nor would we ever want to. It is also an acknowledgment that we do not create organizations that would supplant or replace the mission given to the church.

Nevertheless, there are some who say that membership in a local visible church is unnecessary. Actually, I would suggest that the term “invisible” (or universal) church is meaningless without a visible representation on the earth. Otherwise, it is nothing but some abstraction, a concept. So, this is sometimes people’s logic, “Oh, I belong to the invisible church that is universal, and which is by the way unseen (since invisible), and so it is unnecessary that I join a local congregation.” If this be the case, then it must be presumed your church is inactive and non-existent to anyone’s observation from the outside. And, for those who do not abandon the local visible church with such reasoning, it can lead to the rationalization to create something “new,” an alternative to Christ’s institution, to make the Kingdom hope more appealing and exciting, or just more glamorous than our boring edifices and structures and services, or to provide a more biblical alternative to what was seen as mostly dead church traditions or outright unbelief within the majority of denominations.

The so-called “para-church” organizations that proliferated during the later sixties and seventies, and continue today, often were seen as ways to address the perceived failures, lacks, and omissions of the visible church. Indeed, in many cases they were a response to the failed project of the Liberal and mainline churches that for a generation had largely abandoned the gospel. Succumbing to the unbelief of a purely socially oriented gospel, rejecting much of historic Christian doctrine, they bore the fruits of such theology in catastrophic spiritual (and physical) death around the world. In this context it not surprising that “para” organizations developed to seek to redress this state of affairs, but they typically went outside the organized and visible church and became “alongside,” an alternative. Offering what appeared to be exciting new opportunities to serve the Kingdom and the gospel of Jesus, they created focused ministries to the many and various needs of the world, such as evangelism, discipleship, worship, and serving the poor and oppressed. These para-church organizations have done a tremendous amount of good in the world, but too often the cost to our ecclesiology, and the strength of the believing visible church, has not been acknowledged. Since these organizations are not churches, having no official establishment of biblical structures and patterns and protections of the church, they have been subject to the many cultural and social forces prevailing in the broader culture. They have also been subject to all the same trials every organization of humans struggles with, yet doing so without biblical restraints (and training) on doctrine, authority, and morality. They so often supplant the Christ-given visible church’s responsibilities, and forsake proper structures for those of the business model or non-profit models, and in many cases a very-much-for-profit model.  Because they usually lack proper biblical officers, authorial checks and balances, such organizations are governed by strong personalities who can generate tremendous capital and interest around the causes of the organization, sometimes, and much too often, creating a sub-culture prone to the cult-of-the-personality, or sectarian style structures and strategies, and in some cases cultic, or cult-styled, local and national leadership teams. I claim no expertise on these organizations, but my observation over the years is that the most of them focus on the youth and young adults, and often at the local level they are led by the theologically untrained and immature. This being the case, the larger they become, the more insidiously authoritarian they become in order to control the inevitable chaos. To varying degrees they must compete with one another, in strictly business fashion, vying to appeal to the diverse interests of the young in the hopes of gaining new members by offering a product more satisfying than the other alternatives to the youthful yearnings and aspirations of those they recruit. In sum, I hope that this brief reflection on church and para-church organizations stimulates some reflection on the question of what is the church and how we understand those organizations that are not churches and yet which often supplant the church, Christ’s established and authorial means to fulfill his work. The visible church is Christ’s institution called to the Great Commission, to convey the gospel of the Scripture to the world, to train in righteousness, to disciple the nations, to properly celebrate the Lord’s Table, to baptize, and to guard all these things through biblical discipline.

Now, we must also consider that it is possible for the visible building (belonging to a “visible” church) on the street corner can be just as invisible to the neighbors as the so-called invisible church without a building, but that is another matter regarding the (oxymoronic) “dead church.” In this latter case, it is oxymoronic to think that a true church living in obedience to Christ could possibly be dead since they are energized by the Living Christ and his word of the Gospel and the hope of the gospel. If they are truly alive in Christ, and living in love and grace together, the neighbors will know. A visible church that is invisible to all around it has a spiritual problem, even if it is still present as a visible church. We would not say it is not part of the visible church,  only that it is seriously failing in its calling and mission.

In this sense, the visible church and each member is Christ’s “letter to the world” (2 Cor 3:2). As Francis Schaeffer was known to say, in regards to Jesus’ words on love, that the world will know that the Father has sent the Son on the basis of the love they have for one another. This we know will never be perfect, but that is no excuse for our sin, nor our attempts to replace Christ’s institution with something else; it is a recognition that we must live under grace and discipline together as apprentices of the Servant of servants who is teaching us to love God with a perfect love, as we learn to forgive one another with our presently imperfect love. As his disciples we seek to do his will, but we are still in training with much to learn. As someone else put it, we are learning the impossible task (impossible to us on our own) of loving as God loves and to love what God loves. I conclude that the best place, and most difficult, to do this is in the place Christ Jesus himself instituted, and that is his visible church. In this way, the church is to be as a light set on a hill, the salt of the earth.

“We cannot hope to restore the world if we are constantly reinventing the church.” J.K.A.Smith, You Are What You Love¸p. 178

“There is one body and one Spirit . . .” Ephesians 4:6

The visible church of Christ, is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered, according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things of necessity are requisite the same.

Article XIX, The Thirty Nine Articles

The church “hath always three notes or marks whereby it is known:  pure and sound doctrine, the sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution, and the right use of ecclesiastical discipline.”  E.S.C. Gibson, The Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, p. 495.

“The congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel.” Leslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, pp. 222-223.

[1] There are some difficult cases, nevertheless, as in the underground church in Communist China, and Muslim countries, where open church membership with your name on an official roster, can be a dangerous and unwise practice. This is not what I am addressing, since typically these believers associate closely with a local body of believers, though in secret.

On the many who claim to be prophets today, and dreamers of dreams

Jeremiah in Sistene ChapelFor one who teaches biblical hermeneutics, I am cautious to pull a text like this into our contemporary context, since it is from the end of the pre-exilic context of ancient Judah when Jeremiah wrote dire warnings against them for their idolatries and against the scores of people who then claimed to be prophets sent from God. Nevertheless, can we not ask if there is any similarity with our own generation in regards to the countless claims from people of God revealing, speaking, giving further revelation, visions, and prophecies, so many of which have been widely shown as both false and often misleading? (An example that “there is nothing new under the sun.”)

(left)Jeremiah by Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel) 

Does not the principle stand that for anyone to claim a revelation or prophecy from God, and who did not actually receive such (but only imagined or hoped to have received such), they would most certainly be considered a false prophet. In biblical terms, that is. Even if they prophesied something concrete, in a predictive fashion, that happens to occur, and it did not come directly from God, it still makes them a false prophet. Yet, consider the many thousands of people today claiming prophecies, dreams, visions, etc., who have made themselves a laughing-stock with their oftentimes outrageous and patently false claims. At best they are mostly ignored, but at worst they frequently manage to point people away from the actual canon of revelation in the Old and New Testaments to themselves and their seemingly benign imaginings. Many people have even started movements and organizations on the basis of such spurious revelations, but even if they have many followers it does not make them a prophet from God.

In sum, take heed from Jeremiah to all who claim, “The Lord said to me” or “The Lord gave me this dream  . . . or vision.” And, to all who listen to these many self-proclaimed prophets of our times, take heed lest you too are taken captive by all sorts of vanity and delusions that may appear marvelous, but are nothing more than “the visions of their[the prophets’] own minds.”

Jeremiah 23

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

   25 “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ 26 “How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, 27 who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal? 28“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the LORD. 29“Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock? 30“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who steal My words from each other. 31“Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who use their tongues and declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ 32“Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the LORD, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the LORD.

The Logic of Modern Medical Ethics, or the Morality of Killing Children and Their Grandparents

The Logic of Modern Medical Ethics, or the Morality of Killing Children and Their Grandparents

Forgive me for this brief hiatus from posting pictures of our cute kittens, but in case you had not noticed, this is our world:

  • 431 people were killed by being euthanized against their will in 2015 in the Netherlands.
  • 59,115,9995 people were killed by abortion against their will before their birth since 1973 in the United States. Yes, that is millions.
  • So why are we surprised when articles in The Journal of Medical Ethics[1] propose “after-birth abortions” to “terminate” one’s children with birth defects, or that pose the evil threat of becoming an “undue burden”? The authors claim that it is morally permissible “to kill newborns in all circumstances where abortion would be.” (I wonder what they would say about teenagers who are an undue burden on our food budget?)
  • The authors did get one thing correct: there is no moral difference between an unborn child and a born child. Thus, they are forced to conclude that neither are yet “persons,” properly speaking. As they say, “Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.” Even though they are both fully “human beings” they are not yet “persons,” therefore only we have the right to determine whether they will become “persons.” That’s logic, says Alice.
  • Mao-Zedong, Pol-Pol, Stalin, Hitler, and friends would be proud.

[1] Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, Journal of Medical Ethics, May 2013, 39 (5) 261-263; DOI: 10.1136.

And the Desert Will Be Glad

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If mountains worship God by being mountains and stars worship God by being stars, how do humans worship God? By being human, in the full glory of what that means.”
R. Middleton

And the Desert Will Be Glad

Awash with the sweetest
scent of magnolia
magnificent aroma
as the blueberry and strawberry crepes
sizzle on the griddle,
that antique iron one
your grandmother left to me
to remember the many times
of chess and Life
and checkers before the fire-place,
the one which set ablaze the chimney
a number of Christmas mornings
to which the firemen said
we must get a sweep.
The cat and dog sit to wonder why
but why is not their question.

We tried every summer
to strain the soil to grow our salad,
soil that had been used to cover the town dump,
shoes and bottles every season sprouting
with the lettuce and potatoes.

The sons of Zebedee
wanted their glory early,
before the cross, but learned
his cup was their cup also.
The earth hums.

All day long it was
one of those days
of expecting someone,
but none came,
expectant and hoping
content to wait, anticipating.

This week the pastor’s sermon
touched my son’s heart,
on having the ambition of the kingdom,
not to power and prestige.
These words
are hard ones
rock-like
break-your-teeth-on-them
kind of words.

Peeling the potatoes
the texture and sound
of scraping its rough dirt-like skin
to the pulp, moist with white starch,
as the cool-sharp-blade
slices the core and bangs
against the cutting- board
with a thud.

It is a sweaty-hot day
of heavy, slow clouds
hazy-large on our horizon,
barely a bird is singing
and the day is long
but it is so sweet
with the ordinary,
in which God delights the most,
and when the rocks of the hills
and the rivers
break into singing,
and the grasses with their
fragrance of creation
clap their hands
for his good pleasure.


For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Col 1.19-20

The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the rose.
Isaiah 35:1
יְשֻׂשׂ֥וּם מִדְבָּ֖ר וְצִיָּ֑ה וְתָגֵ֧ל עֲרָבָ֛ה וְתִפְרַ֖ח כַּחֲבַצָּֽלֶת׃


Loving our neighbor with an open mind (because we love the truth)

It can be said that we must be open-minded in relation to our neighbor and what they believe, even if radically contrary to what we believe, and even if they perceive us as enemies. It is love to consider them, and to take them seriously, trying to know them and love them as Jesus commands. As Jason Baehr says, it is essential to Christian love to be open to giving serious attention to the beliefs of those that disagree with us (it is arrogance to do otherwise):

“What does such ‘enemy love’ require of us? While I cannot pursue this question in depth, surely it involves respecting and giving serious consideration to our enemies’ beliefs – and particularly to those beliefs that really ‘matter’ to them. If I feed and clothe my neighbor or enemy, but ignore, distort, or otherwise fail to ‘take seriously’ his deeply held beliefs, then surely I fail to embody the kind of love that Jesus commands.”[1]

Our ideal: As those who claim to love the truth, we above all people should have an interest and intention to see and understand things in accordance to reality, what they actually are. It is wisdom to understand things as they are, not as we wish, imagine, or insist, contrary to reality or the facts. We also, as those who claim to know the truth, out of love for others, must be prepared to have sufficient evidence and reason for what we believe, and not just claim to have it. Nor, do we ask others to “just believe” and not ask questions or raise objections. That is, we must be willing to follow the proper laws of logic, non-contradiction, and so-on, in order to humbly acknowledge our fallibility and willingness to adjust beliefs when found to be in error or incomplete. This is not to say we just hold a tentative, loose grip on the truth received in the Scripture as gospel truth. It is because we hold firmly to the truth of the gospel that we are able to examine honestly all counter-claims to it, as well as internal conflicts among those who embrace it. That is, we do not just hold loosely, or tentatively, the truths of the gospel while trying to be open-minded to other claims or objections. Rather we examine those through the gospel and examine them in light of the Scripture.

Being open-minded in this sense is therefore characterized by the traits of curiosity, compassion, charitableness, honesty, generosity, teachability, graciousness, and empathy. These must all be guided by a rational, logical, truthful effort to know and communicate the truth in love. It is often said that when we speak truth, if it is disagreeable to others, or they find it offensive, that we are not loving, or that we do not love, when in reality we seek and speak the truth because we love and want to share the joys of knowing the truth about reality, and the One who made it.

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“Whatever its more detailed features, open-mindedness has something to do with how we respond to other’s beliefs, and typically at least, to beliefs or ideas that conflict with our own. An open-minded person does not cling blindly to her beliefs in the face of challenges or counter-evidence to them. She is not dismissive of beliefs or positions with which she disagrees. Nor does she shy away from rational dialogue or engagement with people who believe differently from her.”[2]

“Learning is far more than a task or a responsibility. It also changes us. It fulfills our innate (that is, God-given) curiosity about the world. It is a way of increasing our sense of what life holds, therefore inspiring us to create. Learning heightens our ability to understand and sympathize. It broadens our perspective. It makes us richer, more mature people.”[3]

“Real learning is the path to humility, trust, and faith. It can only be faithful learning and the learning of faith that directs us in the world. And this will reveal itself in our work.”[4]

“The whole process of curiosity, questioning, and discovery can be a journey, full of wonder and praise, into the mind of God, who created everything. Whatever can be studied, whether human nature or the physical universe, is what it is because God willed it and made it. To uncover the hidden laws that govern matter, to disclose the patterns of subatomic particles, to discover how human beings grow and interact, to discern an underlying pattern in history or in astronomy–all of these amount to nothing less than discovering God’s will. Just as God is inexhaustible, knowledge is inexhaustible. Our curiosity and understanding can never be fully satisfied in our earthly lives. As thirst is evidence for water, our yearning for knowledge points to Heaven, in which all desires will be fully satisfied.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).[5]

“The delight of learning, which impels people to study God’s works more and more deeply, is really finding pleasure in God.[6]


[1] Baehr, “Open Mindedness,” Being Good, p. 43.

[2] Baehr, “Open Mindedness,” Being Good, p. 31.

[3] Marshall, Heaven is Not my Home, p. 68.

[4] Marshall, Heaven is Not my Home, p. 68.

[5] Veith, Loving God With All Your Mind, p. 151.

[6] Veith, Loving God With All Your Mind, p. 152.

The Wise Fool in Shakespeare and in Life and in Scripture

Historically, plays and entertainment in various cultures have had the figure of a jester, clown, or fool. William Shakespeare’s plays sometimes redesigned this character where he made the fool a central figure of the story, and not just a jester. Influenced by the Bible, Shakespeare played on the biblical notions of the wise man; his fools are often “the wise” who have prophetic revelations for the main characters of the plays that are often themselves shown to be the true proper fools. His fool is often the only one who is not afraid to speak the truth, providing commentary on both the story and the other characters. One of the most fascinating examples is found in King Lear, a play that explores with the ideas of reality, folly, magisterial delusions of kings, and what is wise and what is foolish. He can see through the duplicities and falsehoods before everyone else, and he also stays by Lear’s side and does not abandon him to his madness.
Shakespeare’s fools take some getting used to by the audience, since at first glance they posture as a clown or buffoon, but with closer examination their lines convey some of the wittiest and most logical reasoning in the plays. Besides often giving comic relief in light of tragic circumstances or tragic character flaws in the main characters, the fool often gives us wisdom, playing on the biblical theme of “the wisdom of God is folly/foolishness to the world.
Not all of Shakespeare’s fool follow the same pattern, since some are simpler, and even some darker, than others and give less insight.[1]

One of my favorite fool-dialogues and descriptions is from the Twelfth Night where Viola gives us her definition of the fool, and also the longer selection below where they dialogue wittily and very humorously:

VIOLA

This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
And to do that well craves a kind of wit:
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, cheque at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practise
As full of labour as a wise man’s art
For folly that he wisely shows is fit;
But wise men, folly-fall’n, quite taint their wit.

A dialogue from the Twelfth Night below gives us a good example:

Clown

Wit, an’t be thy will, put me into good fooling!
Those wits, that think they have thee, do very oft
prove fools; and I, that am sure I lack thee, may
pass for a wise man: for what says Quinapalus?[a made-up philosopher][2]
‘Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.’

The original fuller text alongside a modern rendition from “no-fear shakespeare”[1]  
Original Text 

Enter OLIVIA with MALVOLIO

OLIVIA

Take the fool away.

Modern Text

Enter OLIVIA with MALVOLIO

OLIVIA

Get that fool out of here.

FOOL

Do you not hear, fellows? Take away the lady.

FOOL

Didn’t you hear her, guys? Get the lady out of here.

OLIVIA

Go to, you’re a dry fool. I’ll no more of you. Besides, you grow dishonest.

OLIVIA

Oh, go away, you’re a boring fool. I don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore. Besides, you’ve gotten unreliable.

FOOL

Two faults, madonna, that drink and good counsel will amend. For give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry. Bid the dishonest man mend himself. If he mend, he is no longer dishonest. If he cannot, let the botcher mend him. Anything that’s mended is but patched. Virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin, and sin that amends is but patched with virtue. If that this simple syllogism will serve, so. If it will not, what remedy? As there is no true cuckold but calamity, so beauty’s a flower. The lady bade take away the fool. Therefore, I say again, take her away.

FOOL

Madam, those are two character flaws that a little booze and some common sense can fix. If you hand a drink to a sober fool, he won’t be thirsty anymore. If you tell a bad man to mend his wicked ways, and he does, he won’t be bad anymore. If he cannot, let the tailor mend him. Anything that’s mended is only patched up. A good person who does something wrong is only patched up with sin. And a sinner who does something good is only patched up with goodness. If this logic works, that’s great. If not, what can you do about it? Since the only real betrayed husband in the world is the one deserted by Lady Luck—because we’re all married to her—beauty is a flower. The lady gave orders to take away the fool, so I’m telling you again, take her away.

OLIVIA

Sir, I bade them take away you.

OLIVIA

I told them to take you away.

FOOL

Misprision in the highest degree! Lady, Cucullus non facit monachum—that’s as much to say as I wear not motley in my brain. Good madonna, give me leave to prove you a fool.

FOOL

Oh, what a big mistake! Madam, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I mean, I may look like a fool, but my mind’s sharp. Please let me prove you’re a fool.

OLIVIA

Can you do it?

OLIVIA

Can you do that?

FOOL

Dexterously, good madonna.

FOOL

Easily, madam.

OLIVIA

Make your proof.

OLIVIA

Then go ahead and prove it.

FOOL

I must catechise you for it, madonna. Good my mouse of virtue, answer me.

FOOL

I’ll have to ask you some questions, madam. Please answer, my good little student.

OLIVIA

Well, sir, for want of other idleness, I’ll bide your proof.

OLIVIA

I’m listening to you only because I’ve got nothing better to do.

FOOL

Good madonna, why mournest thou?

FOOL

My dear madam, why are you in mourning?

OLIVIA

Good fool, for my brother’s death.

OLIVIA

My dear fool, because my brother died.

FOOL

I think his soul is in hell, madonna.

FOOL

I think his soul’s in hell, my lady.

OLIVIA

I know his soul is in heaven, fool.

OLIVIA

I know his soul’s in heaven, fool.

FOOL

The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul being in heaven. Take away the fool, gentlemen.

FOOL

Then you’re a fool for being sad that your brother’s soul is in heaven. Take away this fool, gentlemen.

OLIVIA

What think you of this fool, Malvolio? Doth he not mend?

OLIVIA

What do you think of this fool, Malvolio? Isn’t he getting funnier?

MALVOLIO

Yes, and shall do till the pangs of death shake him. Infirmity, that decays the wise, doth ever make the better fool.

MALVOLIO

Yes, and he’ll keep getting funnier till he dies. Old age always makes people act funny—even wise people, but fools more than anybody.

FOOL

God send you, sir, a speedy infirmity, for the better increasing your folly! Sir Toby will be sworn that I am no fox, but he will not pass his word for two pence that you are no fool.

FOOL

I hope you go senile soon, sir, so you can become a more foolish fool! Sir Toby would bet a fortune that I’m not smart, but he wouldn’t bet two cents that you’re not a fool.

OLIVIA

How say you to that, Malvolio?

OLIVIA

What do you say to that, Malvolio?

MALVOLIO

I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal.

I saw him put down the other day with an ordinary fool that

MALVOLIO

I’m surprised you enjoy the company of this stupid troublemaker. The other day I saw him defeated in a

has no more brain than a stone. Look you now, he’s out of his guard already. Unless you laugh and minister occasion to him, he is gagged. I protest I take these wise men that crow so at these set kind of fools no better than the fools’ zanies. battle of wits by an ordinary jester with no more brains than a rock. Look at him, he’s at a loss for words already. Unless he’s got somebody laughing at him, he can’t think of anything to say. I swear, anyone smart who laughs at these courts jesters is nothing but a jester’s apprentice.  
OLIVIA

Oh, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite. To be generous, guiltless, and of free disposition is to take those things for bird-bolts that you deem cannon-bullets. There is no slander in an allowed fool, though he do nothing but rail. Nor no railing in a known discreet man, though he do nothing but reprove.

OLIVIA

Malvolio, your vanity is damaging your good taste. If you were generous, innocent, and good-natured, you wouldn’t get so upset by what the fool says. You’d think of his wisecracks as harmless little firecrackers, not hurtful bullets. A court jester isn’t really criticizing people, even if he does nothing but make fun of them all day long. And a wise person doesn’t make fun of people, even if all he does is criticize them.

 
FOOL

Now Mercury endue thee with leasing, for thou speakest well of fools!

FOOL

You speak so highly of fools! I hope the god of deception rewards you by making you a wonderful liar.

 

[1] From http://nfs.sparknotes.com/twelfthnight/page_38.html accesses 8/18/2015.


Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Cor 3 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours,”

1 Cor 1 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written,
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,
AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God. 30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

[1] There have been many things written on Shakespeare’s fools: one example available for free is See Frederick B. Warde, The Fools of Shakespeare: An Interpretation of Their Wit, Wisdom and Personalities (London: McBride, Nast, and Company), 1915.

[2] Possibly means something in Latin (Opalus is Opal, Quin to negate, “without”).

Don’t Be Naive: or, “judge a righteous judgment”

foolsdance“Thou shalt judge . . . . a righteous judgment”

Rom 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

διχοστασίας      divisions
σκάνδαλα          obstacles
χρηστολογίας    smooth talk
εὐλογίας           flattery
ἐξαπατῶσιν       deceive
ἀκάκων             naïve

Warnings against those who use smooth talk (rhetoric) and false logic to bring dissensions and digressions from the truth abound in scripture. For those who claim that we “must not judge” things (what others say, believe, or do), we see in this passage a strong exhortation to “keep your eye” on things contrary to the teaching you have learned. More than that, we are to turn away from them! We often think of this perhaps just in terms of smooth talking salesmen, or some such, but in this case we can understand this as anyone who persuasively in words, print, or other means presents ideas that are not true (true: in accordance with Scripture) so that we might believe in them. Many terrible ideas are being published in beautiful books and beautiful words, and many a hip preacher and teacher can get the crowds shouting on their feet for ideas that will in the end bring down the house (being built on sand). Oftentimes, the ideas will seem a bit novel, but not so apparently diverting from orthodoxy that they are obviously departing from the truth. The seriousness of falling prey to such subtly false rhetoric is a matter of disobedience or obedience to Christ. It is in this sense a matter of life and death, the necessity of having biblical discernment and assessment of people’s logic (thinking/reasonings) and their rhetoric in communicating. This necessity of discerning flattery and deceptions of many kinds requires true wisdom from God, to have skillful discernment and assessment, so that we can clearly distinguish (judge) truth from falsehood, righteousness from unrighteousness, good from evil, etc. Naïve, fools listen to the songs of folly and foolishness, dancing their tune, and this is the epitome of unreason and irrationality. Logic and rhetoric therefore have as their primary concerns the very Truth: what is true to reality not imaginations, what is right, and to what is true to the character of God and all who represent him. We would be wise to listen to the words of wisdom here in Paul, and thus walking with the wise (Prov 13:20) we might become “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16).