The Art of being Cantankerous

By Scott Keith


Cantankerous – disagreeable to deal with; contentious; peevish:

a cantankerous, argumentative man.

Well, I’m back. During my absence, I’ve been forced to sort out several things. First, I finished a PhD and defended my 5 years of research by means of the traditional Viva voce. I completed several ongoing projects here at the university. I wrote a chapter or two for the forthcoming book on fatherhood. Finally, I have been forced to examine something that had been bothering me for some time prior to my sabbatical. That is: why do I write for The Jagged Word?

When this endeavor first began for me, it was the result of conversations I had been having with Paul Koch. I had just begun my work here at the university and was overwhelmed by the culture I was engaging on a day-to-day basis. Our culture seemed to me to be shallow, afraid, anxious, narcissistic, entitled, petty, debauched, unkind, and bound by the law. Quite frankly, this often pissed me off, and I’m sure, made me seem rather disagreeable to deal with, contentious, peevish, or even cantankerous. Yet, as time has moved along I’ve become accustomed to many of the things that once made me so irritated. Time is like that. Time can whittle away at the edges of irritating situations and make us content with things that once seemed painful.


Yet, these things still bother me, greatly. With Matt Lawler, when I look around, I still don’t know how we ended up here. In agreement with Dr. Mallinsion, I don’t think that the kids are alright. I agree with Cody Peterson that theology has lost its rightful place as the “Queen of the Sciences.” Professor Dan Deen is correct when he claims that our freedom is constantly under assault. Joshua Young is correct to claim that you are not that damn important. And, finally, the Junior Critic, arrogant as he may sound, has worked it out correctly when he claims that most students don’t have one iota of clue as to the vocation of student. So I make this pledge to you. I will do my best to stay cantankerous and bring to the light of day the cultural conundrums that should piss off all of us. To that end, I have written my manifesto (don’t worry, it’s short).

  1. To be cantankerous is not to be mean, thus I will stay civil and avoid useless ad hominem attacks whenever possible. (This may be unavoidable when it comes to commenting on those who worship the pope, are generally papists, or overly revere the Disney culture.)
  2. I will contentiously reprove our culture especially its tendency to influence us with fear, debauchery, and petty narcissism.
  3. I will actively engage in discussions within the comment section (whenever possible), but try not to be an idiot. Keep your shit in order. If you ask a question and an answer is given, actually engage the answer. Or, from the beginning, actually engage the article rather than some wild hair that’s been tickling your backside lately.
  4. I will stick to subjects on which I have been asked to comment, namely those that are cultural in nature. (This will be the case except for when The Emperor’s Chair writes some ridiculous nonsense about the pope or some other papist crap, at which point he is virtually forcing me to respond theologically. Note ad hominem exception #1. )
  5. Lastly, I will, as long as I have breath within me, proclaim that the law always accuses and never produces righteousness. Ever! While this is an expressly theological topic, its entanglement with culture and our perception of culture is profound. As Christians, we tend to believe that our response to the depraved cultural milieu of our day is more law. You will never hear that from me on this blog.


In summary, I am disagreeable towards those who believe that just a little more law will make for just a little more righteousness. In fact, I am downright cantankerous about it. Those who believe that we need more law seem to miss that the law is natural to us and we get way more of it than we need. The law is everywhere. The law is naturally in the world, in the home, and in the church. It is the Gospel that is in short supply. It is the Gospel that is the alien Word of power. The Word of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit through that Word are the only transformative agents in the self, in the culture, in the home, or in the church. Christ saves. Christ brings new life. Christ makes new. Christ transforms. If then we are new, how shall we live in the world and in the culture? Live as those who are becoming what Christ has already declared they are. How do we affect the world around us? By realizing that we are free to be mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, workers and servants, children and students. Thus when we live in the world and in our culture we can say without fear; “If Christ is for us, who can be against us?” Live freely!


The Cantankerous Critic