Monday, October 31, 2005

Continuing the “Ugliness” Conversation: the Edification Principle

I’m soon wrapping up this series on ugliness, but I want to touch on a remark made in the comments section. (By the way, to everyone who comments on my blogs, I want to say a sincere “thank you.” I do appreciate your readership and your interaction with my material. I don’t write back to comments, but I do read them, and they are an encouragement. Feel free to comment!) A thoughtful person noted in the midst of last week’s section that an important principle to remember in this discussion is that of edification. This is relevant because we can spend all kinds of time discussing our opinions on what to engage in the culture and miss the Bible’s. For an evangelical, the Bible is the standard. It is the only opinion that ultimately counts.
So the idea that we should seek out what edifies is helpful. There is only one problem. It is not immediately apparent what is edifying and what is not in this world. That may surprise some of us. Evangelical Christians are accustomed to contrasts and clarity. We do less well with the blurry areas of life. When we must wander into such territory, our responses range from panicked worry to negligent malaise. On the first response, there are some among us who exhibit the “hummingbird effect” when we encounter the moral fog that sometimes wraps around us. Searching frantically for the clarity that so comforts and protects us, we flit here and there, seeking the absolutes that typically guide our steps. Our hair-trigger consciences fire away at us, landing more shots than they miss.

Others of the evangelical stamp go a different way in the “fog.” Unaccustomed to conscionable decision-making, they settle into the environment, turning off the senses. This malaise is supported by the antinomian’s life principle, “we are free in Christ,” which functions as an untrumpable presupposition. One can invoke this as at any time and instantly silence all conversation over moral questions, usually to the effect of a red face on the part of the one trying to think responsibly through the quandary. So far from a hair-trigger conscience, the moral switch is unquestionably “off.”

Both ways of thinking are problematic, and both are common. Both would be helped by a close look at what is truly edifying. The first would likely be calmed by such analysis and find grace once unseen. The second would likely be awakened from an ethical slumber and find purpose once unclaimed. What, then, does it mean to be “edifying?”


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