The Importance of the Unimportant

The candidates have all left Iowa.  For several months we were important, and now we’re not. Frankly, it’s good to be unimportant again.  Our attention span for all things political wasn’t going to last forever, and some folks were starting to get testy about their candidates.  Anyway, the point of having magistrates is not to talk about them but to have a space for liberty and peaceful order, among other things.  So we’ll go back to enjoying our peaceful order.

While we’re basking in our newly appreciated unimportance, it’s a good time to talk about the importance of unimportance.  We treasure the most exhilarating moments of our lives – falling in love, shooting rapids in a raft, traveling to a distant city, or any number of special occasions – but we can’t sustain that kind of intensity indefinitely. It’s a relief to fall back into a comfortable routine, to get back on dry land, and to sleep in our own beds again. We just aren’t wired to constantly live in importance.

Accordingly we have a kind of filter.  One kind of scream from a child goes unnoticed whereas another kind of scream makes us bolt to our feet.  We underline some, but not all sentences in a book.  We filter out 98% of a conversation then spend weeks scrutinizing the other 2%.

Then there’s our behavior.  A conversation with our boss is not like a conversation at a barbecue. Our etiquette will be very different during a formal dinner than it will be at the breakfast table, and no one wants it any other way.  In brief, we need unimportance, or at least less importance.

Now this is a “Presbyterian” blog, and there is a Presbyterian angle (though not an exclusively Presbyterian angle) to this important/less important dichotomy.  It’s about the worldviewists among us. Taking their words at face value, they believe the scriptures speak to everything, and they mean something more than giving God the glory in all things and that we should obey the moral law.  An earnest evangelical with a grim face and a nervous tic once told me that the regulative principle of worship applies to all of life.  At the time I thought he was an isolated oddity, but then I found John Frame saying pretty much the same thing: “I therefore reaffirm the regulative principle…while denying that this principle for worship is any different from the principle by which God governs other areas of human life.”

The application of the scriptures to everything should in itself be enough to put us on high alert.  But when you then add the marching orders to take captive every square inch, it’s hard to see where there’s a place for the unimportant.  It’s also hard to see where there’s a place for Liberty of Conscience, a concept which only makes sense if some things are indifferent.

To use their own presuppositionalism against them, worldviewists live in a fortunate inconsistency with their ideas that the scriptures give us directives on everything and we need to capture every square inch; they also live in the realm of the unimportant and recognize that there are mere opinions rather than scriptural directions about everything under the sun.  They would allow that worldview could not result in dogmatism about which candidate is the Christian choice. But, really, the worldviewists should come clean on their inconsistency and tweak their theory.  Are the scriptures much less specific about the things of this world than they claim? Is it really our calling to redeem every square inch? Something’s got to give, because everything can’t be important all the time.

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6 Comments

Filed under Presuppositionalism, Worldview

6 responses to “The Importance of the Unimportant

  1. Lily

    MM – this is a very thoughtful and well written blog. Thanks for linking to it via Old Life.

    Warm regards,
    Lily

    • Can I put a subtle white flower somewhere on the page and call myself “Lilly Approved”? Thanks, Lily, and I trust (or fear) you will put me in my place should I wander too close to glory. But “blues” is closer to the theology of the cross, I figure.

  2. Lily

    You are too funny! And I think you are right; glory guys don’t dig the blues! I almost commented on your blues links the first time – you chose some winners! And as a blog housewarming gift… how would you like a link to Rod Rosenbladt’s lecture series on Luther’s Galatians commentary? Oops – too late to say no:

    I do hope you will find it a great blessing. 😉

  3. Richard

    Reminds me of that Gilbert and Sullivan ditty–“When everyone is someone, then no one’s everybody!”

  4. Richard

    Ahhh . . . screwed it up: “When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody!”

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