f you have been reading the blog very long, this shouldn't come as any surprise:
I'm not impressed with the postmodern notion of transparency as a substitute for the old-fashioned (and biblical) virtue of humility.
Dan Phillips shares my point of view. Last year he posted a three-part series on the subject.
The type of transparency I'm speaking of is that faux-honesty so often used as an excuse for voicing various kinds of complaints, doubts, accusations, fleshly desires, and other kinds of evil thoughts. This exhibitionistic "virtue" is often paired with a smug self-congratulatory sneer or a condescending dismissal of anyone who dares to suggest that propriety and spiritual maturity may sometimes require us not to give voice to every carnal thought or emotioni.e., that sometimes discretion is better than transparency.
Here's a biblical case-study that goes against conventional postmodern "wisdom": In Psalm 73, Asaph is rehearsing the confusion he felt over the reality that wicked people sometimes prosper while righteous people suffer. He says:
I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?" Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. (Psalm 73:3-12)
A note of resentment against God? A model of the very kind of transparency I decry? Sure sounds like it, huh? He continues:
All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
Self-pity, too. Wow! Is that not a classic example of brilliant, transparent, postmodern confessional writing? The psalmist is venting his spleen, giving voice to his doubts, teaching us that it's OK to broadcast whatever doubts and resentments we maybe harboring against God. Right?
Well, not exactly. In fact, the point Asaph is making is precisely the opposite: "If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed the generation of your children" (v. 15).
In other words, Asaph confesses that if he had broadcast his doubts before resolving them, it would have been a sinful act of betrayal against God and against the children of God.
Asaph is actually testifying about how he resolved those doubts and resentments: "But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end" (vv. 16-17).
He has acquired a decidedly un-postmodern kind of confident faith. He reaches a settled certainty about the very things he was tempted to doubt. Then he goes on to explain to his readers that the state of the wicked is not as comfortable as it appears to carnal eyes. He's spreading his new-found faith; not soliciting companions who share his doubts.
So this psalm is not an apologia for the sort of "transparency" whose only aim is to vent in a way that aims to legitimize skepticism; it's a condemnation of precisely that sort of intemperance.
There's nothing vague or confusing about the point Asaph is really making. As a matter of fact, the whole psalm starts with an explicit statement of his main thesis: "Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart."
PS: Some random notes in passing: Longtime Pyro reader David Kjos thinks my Tweets are boring, and another blogger lists PyroManiacs in some rarefied company. Meanwhile, we came up tenth in a category we didn't even know we belonged to"Church blogs." And did anyone notice our hit counter went over 3 million this week? Keep your feedback coming. It motivates us to do better.