“Philosophy springs from the love of being; it is man’s loving endeavor to perceive the order of being and attune himself to it. Gnosis desires dominion over being; in order to seize control of being the Gnostic constructs his system. The building of systems is a gnostic form of reasoning, not a philosophical one.”
“The ultimate expression of this Christian attitude toward the power of money is what we will call profanation. To profane money, like all other powers, is to take away its sacred character…. Giving to God is the act of profanation par excellence…. We need to regain an appreciation of gifts that are not utilitarian.
“We should meditate on the story in the Gospel of John where Mary wastes precious ointment on Jesus. The one who protests against this free gift is Judas. He would have preferred it to be used for good works, for the poor. He wanted such an enormous sum of money to be spent usefully. Giving to God introduces the useless into the world of efficiency, and this is an essential witness to faith in today’s world.”
― Jacques Ellul, Money and Power
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
-From John 12
“We must be convinced that there are no such things as ‘Christian principles.’ There is the Person of Christ, who is the principle of everything. But if we wish to be faithful to Him, we cannot dream of reducing Christianity to a certain number of principles (though this is often done), the consequences of which can be logically deduced.
“This tendency to transform the work of the Living God into a philosophical doctrine is the constant temptation of theologians, and also of the faithful, and their greatest disloyalty is when they transform the action of the Spirit which brings forth fruit in themselves into an ethic, a new law, into ‘principles’ which only have to be ‘applied.’”
― Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman is a thorough treatment of the history of Expressive Individualism and what modernity has come to. The author is a good thinker and writer, but he wearied me by incorporating into his thesis every possible thought and phenomenon that might contribute to the conclusion that “We are all expressive individualists now.” It’s a long book. After a hundred pages I jumped to the last fifty pages, and read the end first, to find out if it was worth the slog. I decided it was: I read every word, and underlined thought-provoking passages on every page.
So I’m glad I read it, and I’m much more glad that Anthony Esolen read it, because his writing is not just good, but sublime, and he calls the book a “mountaintop work.” He wrote a great review, which I heartily recommend. Because you probably want to know if you really are an Expressive Individualist, right?
To Strut and Fret an Hour Upon the Stage by Anthony Esolen