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About Pious Eye: Site’s Introduction
Pious Eye (more fully, Pious Eye: Seeing by the True Light) is an online journal of Christian thought comprising the opinions, observations, and reflections of its founder, (David M. Hodges), and serving as that founder’s ministry to his fellow Bible believers (and anyone else who might benefit). As such, it seeks to educate, to promote thought, and to encourage discussion. At the same time, it is its founder’s personal Web site or blog and a record of his ongoing effort to bring his every thought and feeling into conformity with true piety, to manifest (with greater and greater consistency) a pious, as opposed to an impious, perspective on things—to, in other words, qualify as “seeing by the true light.” Since Christ, God the Son, who speaks to his people through his Word, the Bible, is “the true light” (John 1:9-17), the piety in view is biblical Christian piety, not the “piety” of any non-Christian faith (though useful lessons might be drawn from those), and not any purportedly “Christian” piety based on sources other than the Bible (subjective experience, emotion, faithless empiricism mislabeled “apologetics,” Bible-disregarding “science” stories, secular scholarship, secularized “Christian” scholarship, or anything else). This is a sober piety, one that elevates Scripture-grounded and -guided rationality (faithful reason) over all forms of emotionalism and mysticism, though by no means denying the positive value of pious emotions or the potential genuineness of some mystical experiences, and that calls for carefulness and extended reflection, even (sometimes) to the point of “splitting hairs.” As a result, posts to the Pious Eye site will rarely appeal to in-a-hurry sorts who prefer short and simple arguments set forth in similarly short and simple sentences specially designed for speed reading. They will also rarely appeal to readers seeking fluffy personal stories to encourage or entertain. If you like that sort of thing, there is certainly no shortage of sites out there providing such material; you are unlikely to find any of it here.
Though for a time the site’s founder made an effort to cultivate an aloofness from politics that would allow him to view, or at least pretend to view, members of the growing evangelical or religious left (Ron Sider/Tony Campolo types) as still capable of exhibiting true piety, he has abandoned that effort. While he feels no allegiance to “Devil take the hindmost” secular Social Darwinist types (assuming they exist outside of fiction and left-liberal rhetoric), he does not see the use of government force to confiscate honestly acquired wealth as compatible with scriptural morality, however “noble” or “Christian” the motivation for such confiscation may seem. I do not assert that limited taxation to fund government’s legitimate functions is wrong or that “all taxation is theft,” since those benefiting from the protection of government should pay for it. I do assert that the wealth redistribution schemes, and various other abridgments of liberty, supported by political liberals and the religious left cannot honestly be claimed compatible with genuine Christian piety. I also assert that hallmarks of left-liberal political strategy, such as the intentional promotion of covetousness and envy, are pure impiety. One may grant that most among the evangelical left sincerely believe their position is pious, so that their culpability for impiety may be limited; no amount of sincere belief, however, can make wrong actions pious. Therefore, the Pious Eye is necessarily a (for want of a better term) conservative eye, and will give free expression to political, not solely to theological and obviously moral, opinions. (I say “for want of a better term” because much about our republic that should have been conserved is now lost and needs to be restored, and much that now exists needs to be eliminated, not conserved. These factors may make the term “conservative” misleading. Alas, I’ve no superior term to offer at the moment.)
My name is David M. Hodges. I include the “M.” solely in order to reduce the number of people named “David Hodges” who might be unfairly accused of creating this site. As the middle initial “M.” is hardly rare, I don’t know that this will help much. Though having a name rather than a number has been considered essential to individualism and liberty, I sometimes wish I were good at memorizing long and meaningless number sequences, since I might then assign myself one and ask that people use it when addressing me. Alas, not being good at such memorization, I must continue identifying myself by the name I share with many others.
Interested in “spiritual” things since grade school, when I had some “mystical” experiences (vaguely sensing the numinous in “sacred spaces” like chapels and in “the great outdoors”) and began reading “paranormal phenomena” books, my first well-remembered exposure to Christianity was through a creationist booklet I read in 7th or 8th grade. (I dimly recall exposures before that, such as attending at least one session of a “vacation Bible school” near my home when I was a child. Prior to my inviting them to a revival meeting after my adolescent conversion, my parents were never regular churchgoers, so such exposures were rare.) Around my first year of high school, I signed my name under a “sinner’s prayer” affirmation in the back of a Gideons New Testament. Somewhat later, I publicly professed faith and was baptized in an Independent Baptist church, though I am today unsure if I was genuinely “saved” at that point or just starting on what would be a very long period of “preparation.” That I could never embrace and enjoy a worldly lifestyle, being less-than-hedonistic even when professing unbelief, might favor the former. (A coworker at my first “real job” suggested, based on observation of my behavior and such thinking as I’d shared, that I would prefer to be just a disembodied mind rather than have to deal with bodily needs and wants at all. I could never see any sense in the “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die” expression of unbelief, since none of the merry-making would be remembered, either with guilt or with relish, once I passed from existence at death.) While my professing-unbeliever’s aversion to (or, at least, failure to see any point in) carnal indulgence might favor the I-was-already-saved hypothesis, it falls far short of proving it. After all, Spirit-imposed inability to enjoy sinful bodily indulgence is not the only possible cause of anhedonic or ascetic tendencies. Satan-inspired distaste for God’s good creation, even and especially for those aspects least marred by the fall, can also yield such tendencies.
Shortly after my adolescent profession, I “felt” a call to attend Bible College and seek entry into some sort of “full-time Christian service,” but opted instead to matriculate at a secular university, U.C. (University of California) San Diego. Not long after that, I was professing agnosticism—of the “everything is meaningless” variety. This agnosticism did not lead me into a “wild lifestyle,” or even an averagely indulgent one, as I’ve already noted. It did, however, lead me into an intellectual-emotional “wilderness wandering,” one aspect of which was that I became very detached from my U.C. studies, skipping many classes and abandoning my initial choice of majors, biology, in favor of literature/writing, in my freshman year. I’d always loved (and still love) grappling with ideas and writing much more than anything I might have done in a biology lab, so a change of majors was reasonable, though my detachment (I was more focused on dismantling my youthful faith than on university studies) was not, nor perhaps was my choice of new major, since all that has ever interested me about literature is the ideas it is used to convey; the things typical lovers of literature most value (characterization, interpersonal dynamics, stylistic experimentation) interest me relatively little.
In spite of my detachment, I did graduate and find employment (as an irrelevant, unhappy cog in the bureaucratic machinery of the local court system). Like every job or hobby I tried during my wilderness wandering, I found this “first real” job meaningless and unsatisfying, and so moved on to other things. Eventually, after more “meaningless and unsatisfying” jobs and various educational pursuits (in search of meaning or stimulation, seldom with any practical purpose), I found my way back to faith and into seminary. My return to faith, or movement from preparation into conversion, owed largely to the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, especially as clarified and systematized by Greg Bahnsen. Since that time, I’ve attended both Presbyterian and Baptist churches. Though I have limited interest in denominational distinctives, where Presbyterians and (Reformed) Baptists disagree, I usually find the Baptist position more persuasive. (This is a change from where I was when I completed my first seminary degree in 2009, when I was more Presbyterian than Baptist.) Today, I could be described (if a couple stereotypes may be employed) as having Reformed Baptist doctrinal convictions joined to a maximally staid Presbyterian temperament. As evidence of the latter, I note that the most agreeable worship style I have yet participated in is that I found in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), where no musical instruments are played and where only God’s own psalms are sung.
Though I sometimes wish I’d been wired as many others seem to be, able to lose their faith and still function well in secular life, so that they can later return to faith with an established career and healthy bank account, my makeup would never allow this. Nor would it allow me the easily maintained “faith” that some hold, a “faith” that allows them to live just like unbelievers while still feeling secure in their “saved” status. I’ve always needed a faith that my entire life could be based upon and organized around. When I lacked such a faith, I couldn’t focus in any sustained way on such practical activities as getting established on a career path and mastering my finances: in a what’s-the-point-of-it-all environment, such things seemed quite pointless. My wandering through the wilderness of unbelief, thus, left me in a poor financial condition that successful completion of two theological Masters degrees has not helped to correct. Though I’ve learned how to spend less and less money, and to see many of the things that others spend a great deal on as worthless (leisure travel, restaurant dining) or unimportant (meat consumption, dental work on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border), I’ve yet to show any talent for making money, so my means remain meager. (My freelance editing clients have been happy with the quality of my editing, revision, and rewriting of their materials, but I’m not sure my earnings potential is very high in this line of work. Being more inclined to brood than to brag, I’m not well suited to the competitive environment of freelance self-marketing. I sense my editing and related services will never do more than supplement an income I will have to obtain mostly from some other source.)
Anyway, about those theological degrees. Whether I would pursue even the first (more “prestigious,” ATS-accredited) of these Masters degrees “if I had it to do over again” is an open, if irrelevant, question. Pursuit of at least the first degree seemed sensible. (My decision to quit work to pursue it was emphatically not sensible, but expressive of irresponsible habits acquired during my wilderness wandering. Since the company that had taken over the company where I worked closed down the San Diego office not long after that, I may not have missed many work hours by leaving when I did.) Discounting my failure to enter upon the requisite course of study and training earlier in life, my aptitudes and temperament seemed to favor a career in academia. (Assessment tests I took while at the school agreed.) Masters degrees in hand, pursuit of a suitable Ph.D. seemed the logical next step. Alas, the seeming logic of this next step proved in conflict with financial reality, and I have had to abandon hope of further formal study. God, it seems, has other plans for me.
In order to make some use of my theological education, and perhaps to counteract some of its negative effects (Christian academia is not the model of true piety I might have hoped it would be), I founded this site, to which I will eventually post much of my academic work (as a record of my thinking’s development over time and as fodder for reflection and discussion, not as material I still entirely agree with), and to which I will also post various other items, such as book reviews (typically lengthier ones that interact with books I’m reading in some depth). Given its format and some of its content, I believe this site does qualify as a blog, though the length and detail of much of its content differs from what I’ve seen in most blogs (which, I confess, I seldom read). Also, unlike most who call themselves “bloggers,” my focus is on close analysis and extended reflection in posts, not on posts that are brief or frequent, though brief posts that do not engage in close analysis or extended reflection will appear from time to time.