The Ministry of Death

I listen regularly to the Pray as You Go podcast. Last week, one of the passages featured was the passage below from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church:

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory!

2 Corinthians 3:4-9 (NRSV)

In this passage Paul contrasts two covenants—first, the giving of the law through Moses; and second, what he calls “a new covenant…of spirit,” which “gives life.” Paul goes on to refer to the first covenant as “the ministry of death,” and “the ministry of condemnation.”

His meaning here seems to be Continue reading

Creativity and Constraints

As I launch into fiction writing, I’ve been reading Robert McKee’s Story as a guide to the principles of good narrative. I just came across the following passage that is part of his discussion of the importance of defining a clear setting for one’s story—the period, duration, location, and level of conflict exhibited in the story:

“Limitation is vital. The first step toward a well-told story is to create a small, knowable world. Artists by nature crave freedom, so the principle that the structure/setting relationship restricts creative choices may stir the rebel in you. With a closer look, however, you’ll see that this relationship couldn’t be more positive. The constraint that setting imposes on story design doesn’t inhibit creativity; it inspires it.” (71)

This passage rings true to me. It seems to me a myth about creativity that Continue reading

Ahab’s Failure to Forgive

I’ve been reading Melville’s masterpiece Moby Dick and came across the following passage describing how Ahab’s mania for the great white whale occasionally wakens him from sleep and sends him rushing to the deck of the ship:

“For, at such times, crazy Ahab, the scheming, unappeasedly steadfast hunter of the white whale; this Ahab that had gone to his hammock, was not the agent that so caused him to burst from it in horror again. The latter was the eternal, living principle or soul in him; and in sleep, being for the time dissociated from the characterizing mind, which at other times employed it for its outer vehicle or agent, it spontaneously sought escape from the scorching contiguity of the frantic thing, of which, for the time, it was no longer an integral. But as the mind does not exist unless leagued with the soul, therefore it must have been that, in Ahab’s case, yielding up all his thoughts and fancies to his one supreme purpose; that purpose, by its own sheer inveteracy of will, forced itself against gods and devils into a kind of self-assumed, independent being of its own. Nay, could grimly live and burn, while the common vitality to which it was conjoined, fled horror-stricken from the unbidden and unfathered birth. Therefore, the tormented spirit that glared out of bodily eyes, when what seemed Ahab rushed from his room, was for the time but a vacated thing, a formless somnambulistic being, a ray of living light, to be sure, but without an object to colour, and therefore a blankness in itself. God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.”

The passage strikes me as a vivid picture of the human soul when it fails to forgive. Ahab, of course, has previously lost one of his legs to the great whale, and now he is back sailing the seas, seeking to kill this oceanic incarnation of evil itself. In a word, Ahab is gripped by vengeance. What is the result? Continue reading