Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Two Fates, One Hermeneutic, Zero Evil -- Part 1 of 7

For quite some time (since my first year of college in 2006-2007), I thought that the scriptural case for conditional immortality (hereafter 'CI') was decent, but that there was just a "little too much text" suggesting eternal conscious torment (hereafter 'ECT') as the final fate of the wicked, and enough room to understand the 'CI texts' from an ECT framework. I couldn't quite embrace CI. Over the last 6 to 9 months, I have become convinced that CI is indeed the consistent teaching of Scripture. I am not nearly as sure of this doctrine, though, as I am of doctrines like the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the basic nature of the atonement, etc.

I now think with regard to the passages that previously gave me pause about CI not only that they could be interpreted as being consistent with CI (I am not interested in seeing "how much theological margin Scripture lets me get away with but rather what precisely it teaches on any given topic), but that even they probably should be understood as teaching CI rather than ECT. That fact, plus the idea that a cumulative hermeneutic (a hermeneutic that reads the canon from "left to right," as it were, generally privileging earlier established categories when interpreting later texts and themes [not to neglect the legitimate category of "mysteries"--things somewhat hidden and later revealed, such as the full inclusion of the Gentiles]) points in the direction of CI, plus some of the very strong CI texts that ECT does more than stumble over in attempts at exegesis, made me comfortable enough with the idea of landing in that camp (albeit a bit "softly" still).

I held to the doctrine of ECT since being taught it as a kind of default by my parents as a young child, all the way through serious theological study, inclusive of a couple of handfuls of formal seminary courses, despite being emotionally uncomfortable with it. I thought Scripture teaches it. If Scripture teaches it, and I am now wrong about CI, then ECT is true, regardless of how I or any other fallen human being feels about it. If Scripture teaches ECT, then it is a just and good sentence for a holy God to carry out against the finally impenitent wicked. I don't think moral intuitions, theological feelings, etc., are totally unimportant to consider in the debate over final judgment, but because of the noetic and affective effects of sin, I am highly suspicious of them as any kind of theological guides. Scripture must control our thinking in this and every area. Sinners tend to minimize sin and judgment and underestimate the holiness of God and severity of his judgments against evil.

Here I place myself in the ranks of evangelical CI adherents of past and present, who esteem(ed) the final authority of Scripture, like I. Howard Marshall, John Stott, Dale Moody, and Preston Sprinkle, to name just a few. I don't mean I place myself with them in terms of education or importance or theological knowledge or stature (very far from it), but in terms of kinds of conditionalists. We think it is scriptural, and we do not think it is heretical (early ecumenical creeds do not specify ECT, and early church theologians were themselves not even agreed on the matter--nor were 2nd Temple Jews, which is worth noting).

I am a member of a Reformed church in a Presbyterian and Reformed denomination--the Presbyterian Church in America, and I have at times considered whether I may be called to formal ministry. So far, the "answer" to that based on life circumstances, my inclinations, and my level of holistic Christian maturity thus far, has seemed to be "No," and now it seems highly unlikely, unless my views change, that I would ever be able to minister in a denomination like the PCA, which upholds the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards as the doctrinal standards of its officers. I personally think that CI does not threaten the "system" of doctrine set forth in those standards, but I would bet most of the leadership in the PCA would regard the position of CI as sufficiently different on a sufficiently central point of doctrine (the nature of final judgment) to preclude ministerial candidates holding to it from ministering in their churches. And I think that is completely understandable. For a good while now I've also rejected Reformed Sabbatarianism (obligatory weekly Sabbath-day keeping on the Lord's Day or otherwise) and most forms of Reformed cessationism, on exegetical grounds--so I would have had an interesting time being examined by a PCA presbytery, anyway...Perhaps I will find myself called to ministry in a Reformed Episcopal/Anglican church or another broad-orthodoxy Protestant group in the future. Who knows.

For now I have every intention of staying at my church and leading small group Bible study at times or even leading or teaching in other Christian education venues connected to our church, when asked to. But I have no intention of proactively promoting my view of CI in these contexts, since it is against our denomination's doctrinal standards, it is not a "gospel issue" in the sense of threatening one's salvation if they believe the wrong thing about it, and yet it has the potential to cause disunity if introduced into a context where ECT is taken for granted as obvious biblical orthodoxy. I most likely won't even link to this blog post on social media pages followed by many people from my church. If I am asked by anyone I will give my opinion in measured terms, and probably leave it at that. And if the topic comes up tangentially when I am teaching on other areas, I will likely restrict myself to explicit biblical language without much further comment.

But I wanted to write about this in an organized way here at least a little bit, and let anyone who follows this blog with any regularity (probably one or two people, if that), or anyone I point toward this article in the near future, push back and challenge my thinking in this area if they have any good challenges to present. I want to have more confidence in what Scripture teaches, and I (I think genuinely...) would like to be corrected if I am wrong here. This post will only contain discussion of 1) below, and we'll make this a series.

Biblical and Theological Themes and Passages that Teach or Demonstrate Conditional Immortality of Humanity and Annihilation as the Fate of the Finally Impenitent Wicked

The categories, which overlap a bit, are:

1) General scriptural teaching on life and death

2) General scriptural teaching on natural human mortality (apart from Christ)

3) General scriptural pattern of judgment and the fate of the wicked

4) Scriptural teaching on God's plan to end evil itself

5) Specific scriptural teaching on the nature of final judgment for the wicked

6) The nature of Christ's atonement as substitutionary accursedness

7) Most ECT objections beg question, specially plead in exegesis, or speculate philosophically


Before beginning each line of evidence, let's get a definition before us, lest there be any misunderstanding. The key feature of CI or evangelical annihilationism is not some precise view of the eternal fate of the molecular or atomic matter of the finally impenitent (or any analogous "spiritual" material of the same human souls, if the soul is a distinct, separable substance). The point is that the finally impenitent or "wicked" will be raised from the dead on the Last Day, and they and all the wicked who are still living at that time will be judged by Christ and sentenced to be holistically destroyed/slain/killed, forever. Their bodily life and any other sense of life they have, including consciousness, will end permanently. This may or may not be preceded by a protracted time of suffering, which may or may not include literal fire. The focus of the Bible, though, is eternal destruction and death, without those words meaning something radically other than what they normally mean (in Greek or English).

1) Life and Death

From Genesis 1, God is the source of all life, and especially embodied human life. It is when God breathes the breath of life into the nostrils of the man made from the dust of the earth that he becomes a living being (nep̄eš ḥayah (Heb.) or psychēn zōsan (Gk. from 1 Cor. 15:45)). In Genesis 3 when humans rebel and fall, and are driven out of the garden, precluded from access to the tree of life, there are different senses in which they experience "death," and legitimate layers of how we talk about that experience as death-like, but the ultimate concern of the rest of the biblical narrative taken together is the problem of "death" in the normal sense of cessation of bodily animation. The patriarchs are promised descendants which in a sense extend their own "life" and name in the world, but as Jesus argues against the Sadducees, the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" is the God of the living, and (implicitly) the patriarchs must all rise in order to fully receive the promises made to them. (This passage is often inadequately taken as referring to Abraham's present "spiritual life" with God in the intermediate state--hardly a useful polemic against resurrection-deniers like the Sadducees).

True, Adam and Eve's fellowship with God was broken. True, they were driven from his special presence to confer eschatological blessing. True, their original righteousness was marred, and hearts and minds darkened by sin from then on (what some mean by "spiritual death"). But the primary effect of the Fall was (as God had warned, "in the day that you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil..."), death in a holistic and inclusively bodily sense. This is nowhere more obvious than in Romans 5:12-14 where Paul makes an empirical argument about Death's "reign" from Adam to Moses, even over those who were not direct recipients of a formal covenant command the way Adam was. Anything less than physical death of humans being in view here would lack sufficient rhetorical strength for Paul's point about original sin. You can't see a hypothetical "Sin-death" that doesn't touch physical life.

But Adam and Eve didn't drop dead that day. So don't we need to appeal to a category of "spiritual death" or "covenantal death" or "Sin-death" (as the hyperpreterists put it), in order to protect the integrity of God's word here? I'm not convinced by those readings at all, based on the rest of Scripture. But if we say that God simply mercifully stayed the originally threatened sentence (perhaps even substituting the [physical] death of the animals implicitly used for the provided skin coverings), why do humans continue to die physically and why do I think that's still important as something related to sin? The simplest answer is that the Bible does. Again, Paul in Romans 5 marks normal human "death" as related to (at least) original sin. As will be discussed under the section about human mortality and immortality, while an immediate death sentence was stayed, immediate access to the tree of life was also removed. I understand the tree of life as something Adam and Eve were not explicitly prohibited from, but were at least providentially, if not implicitly covenantally, hindered from partaking of, prior to completion of the probation test of the other tree. They had the opportunity for eternal life, understood as more than the supernatural impartation of everlasting bodily life (indeed as much as an elevated "glorious" and "Spiritual" life--cf. 1 Cor. 15:44-49), but no less than and arguably centrally everlasting bodily life (note the emphasis on categories of "imperishability" and "immortality" in 1 Cor. 15:42, 50ff).

So what happened re: human "death" on the day of the Fall? A few things: 1) the direct, personal sentence of death as the threatened "wages" of sin was mercifully stayed in Adam and Eve's case, at least temporarily and/or in some restricted sense (see #3); 2) it seems a proto-sacramental animal sacrifice occurred (a physical death!) so that Adam and Eve could be robed as priests and continue to function as such, albeit outside the original holy realm of the garden now; 3) sin and death "entered the world" such that all humans descending from Adam by ordinary generation are marked by a default status of "death," anticipating a fate of permanent physical death unless divine salvation intervenes (and nothwithstanding a temporary resurrection unto final judgment and condemnation of eternal death).

What about other NT passages that speak of "life" and "death" in ways that seem to go beyond bodily life or death? In the high priestly prayer of John 17 Jesus prays to the Father that, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (v. 3). Does this not show that Scripture conceives of life or at least "eternal life" as something more than everlasting bodily animation? Of course it is true that everlasting life in the context of salvation does involve more than mere bodily animation just because it is facilitated by relationship to Father, Son, and Spirit in a covenant. But that is actually the main point of John 17:3...just as John 6:63 says that the words of Jesus "are life" (obviously meaning they give or lead to life, it is knowledge of the Father and the Son that leads to eternal or everlasting life. While acknowledging that Christian life de facto involves more than mere ongoing existence, we need not over-spiritualize the vocabulary of "life" itself, or even "eternal life." Speaking of the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6, note the reoccurrence of the language "live forever" in vv. 51 and 58.

Ephesians 2:1-10 is a classic "Calvinist passage" used to support the doctrines of total depravity and irresistible grace--monergistic regeneration in the face of radically corrupted human nature. And fair enough! But it is often spoken of as if what is in view is primarily a "spiritual" or "inward" state of death which is reversed in an inward way by regeneration when God's Spirit causes someone to be united to the risen Christ. I don't object to that idea, even as an implication or presupposition of this particular passage; however, it's not what the passage focuses on. Even as Richard Gaffin, Jr. notices in 'Perspectives on Pentecost', what Ephesians 2 brings into view is the activity of the unsaved person in following the devil and the "course of this world" vs. their activity after saving union with Christ, in carrying out pre-ordained good works, where the unsaved activity is described as "death." To be "dead in trespasses and sins" is not so much to have a dead heart (though it certainly results from that), but to display a status of death and to live as a metaphorically "dead" moral agent in the world. It is "spiritual" death only in the Pauline sense that the person's life and body lack the controlling animation of the Holy Spirit which he provides in salvation. It is faith-union with the physically-killed-and-now-bodily-risen Christ that saves from the full range of what the "dead" status of v. 1 means, and if we look at the cross and resurrection, we will understand the center of what it means (we'll discuss this more in section 6 of the series). It means we were "dead men walking," but now the Spirit animates our bodies as we live the Christian life, and one day will animate our physical bodies with the fullness of everlasting, glorious life. For us physical death is a doorway to Paradise rather than a wage for sin or a remaining legal status in the heavenly courtroom.

There's a lot more to say, and we will say most of it in succeeding sections on mortality, judgment, atonement, etc. For here it's enough to remind ourselves not to over-spiritualize biblical categories of "life" and "death." While life and death and images of resurrection can and are sometimes used as metaphors in Scripture (think of Ezekiel 37's valley of dry bones, or at least one layer of the meaning of Daniel 12:2 in context), the Bible is a nitty-gritty book about concrete life in this very physical world God has made and cares deeply about. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Rom. 6:23). Any and all, and only those who eat of the "bread" of Christ will "live forever" (Jn. 6:51, 58). The promises to Abraham were about a multitudinous seed living securely in a Promised Land. Canaan was a shadow, sure. But the substance is not more shadowy. With God there is order, formed-ness, fittedness for fruitfulness; sin spells disorder, chaos, dissolution, barrenness--death.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Pillars of Christian Assurance - An Intro, & A Longer Work Finally Coming in 2024?

Many pastors report that assurance of salvation is one of the most common issues they deal with in counseling their congregants. Individual believers tend to differ in their experiences of assurance. Whether it is due to relative degrees of maturity in theological understanding of the gospel and its implications, differing families of origin and upbringings, or other details of individual paths of sanctification, Christians tend to fall into two large buckets: some enjoy a very full and consistent sense of assurance of salvation for most of their Christian life, and some seem to struggle frequentyl and significantly to experience a consistent sense of peace about their standing before God.

While I have grown quite a bit in this area over the years, historically, I would place myself in the latter category. As a result, assurance is a topic I have frequently come back to in study, meditation, and teaching. I'm sure I still have a lot to learn, but I have learned enough to see that most of the existing resources that address this area are deficient. They are deficient either in theological content (due to inaccuracy in the worst cases, or lack of nuance in other cases), thoroughness (not answering all the questions that must be answered), or in organization and clarity (placing the answers to multiple relevant questions in proper relation to each other).

One of the ways this is manifested is in well-meaning Christian leaders' common responses to questions of assurance. They often answer questions that are important and even relevant to the issue of assurance, but questions that are distinct from the questions actually being asked. For example, a troubled believer with a sensitive conscience may ask his or her pastor, "How can I know whether I'm truly saved?" And the pastor may spend ten or fifteen minutes talking about things like eternal security (or perseverance of the saints), justification by faith, the grace of the gospel, or even the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible. These are all crucial areas of theology to talk about and understand, especially for full-orbed Christian assurance.

But that's not what was being asked.

The questioner was raising the issue of a personal, subjective sense of peace and assurance: "How can I know whether I'm truly saved?" The question could arise in other forms: "How do I know my faith is genuine?" "How do I know I'm not a complete hypocrite?" "How can I know I'm not self-deceived?" "How can I know I'm not among those to whom Jesus will say, 'Depart from me, I never knew you' on the Last Day?"

There are many reasons these questions arise. Some of them are biblical reasons--passages that raise the issue of self-examination, assurance, and sincerity. Some of them are personal, historical reasons related to how a person views God, influenced by their upbringing and other experiences. Some of them are theological and even apologetic--just what does the Bible teach about grace, salvation, and eternity, and why think those teachings are true, anyway? All of these questions and their respective answers contribute to a complete understanding of assurance of salvation. So we need to talk about the truthfulness of Scripture, the grace of the gospel, the benefits of union with Christ, and how to think about perseverance of faith in relation to Scripture's "warning passages" about "falling away." But we need to go further and press in on the question of personal, subjective assurance, relating it to these prior questions. We need to learn from Scripture about proper expectations of the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, as well as the Spirit's role in our direct experience of assurance, and faithful use of the ordinary means of grace as we seek to continually grow.

Before going further, let's stipulate a full-orbed definition of Christian assurance: a personal sense of everlasting peace with God based on a knowledge that one has truly received the grace of Christ offered in the gospel.

The key words or phrases in that definition are "personal sense," "everlasting," and "peace with God/grace of Christ/gospel," roughly corresponding to three of four "pillars" of Christian assurance, each deserving at least one chapter of a longer work:

1) The biblical, Christian worldview and knowing truth

This deals with a Christian understanding of the possibility and method of true human knowledge. It is related to the Christian doctrine of revelation--God revealing truth through his Word and his world. As finite creatures, we must reckon with the fact that we depend on a transcendent source of truth which has an unlimited perspective and can fully account for all contexts of every fact in the universe. In fact, the triune God revealed in the Bible as a personal, absolute, living, active, and omniscient Creator and Sustainer of all things, who has created human minds to receive his revelation, is the necessary metaphysical foundation for human knowledge--and his activity in revealing himself is the necessary epistemic foundation. He has in fact spoken and made himself known to all men, whether they acknowledge and worship him or not. Coming to grips with God's pervasive claim of clear self-revelation (and seeing the impossibility of other attempts at justifying human knowledge) will support belief in the truthfulness of everything else we learn from his Word about grace and assurance.

2) The grace of the gospel

We are speaking of assurance of salvation, so we need to have a clear and thorough understanding of the nature and method of salvation, by which God graciously brings sinners into his kingdom. The work of Jesus Christ in his death, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the foundational accomplishment of salvation. The application of the benefits of that accomplished redemption to sinners who would be saved depends on union with Christ, accomplished by the Spirit through faith. These benefits include all the traditional categories of the "order of salvation," like effectual calling/regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. Ideally, individual Christians grow for decades in deepening understanding of each of these benefits, seeing their blood-bought origin at Christ's cross, their mystical application to individual sinners by the Spirit in union with Christ, and their broader ecclesial and royal-covenantal contexts as God continues to extend his kingdom upon the earth. Understanding the grace of the gospel as fully as possible, especially the doctrines of justification and adoption, will go a long way toward building sturdy Christian assurance.

3) Perseverance and eternal security

A person wondering about their standing before God will care not only about their standing before him today, but about whether that standing is final, immutable, whether they are eternally safe in the arms of the Savior. Therefore we have to continue to study the doctrine of salvation and ask whether those who are united to Christ can ever be severed from him. Protestant Christians, whether of a more classical, confessional tradition or a more contemporary evangelical expression, do not all agree with each other on whether the Bible teaches the "eternal security of the believer," also called "perseverance of the saints." I believe a strong scriptural case can be made for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but I also admit it is far from the clearest and surest doctrine I hold to (compared to, for instance, belief in the full deity of Christ). Many godly and highly-trained theologians who esteem the Scriptures as divinely-breathed words have concluded differently. So my approach in recent years has been to lay out a decent scriptural and theological case for perseverance of the saints and then talk about the so-called "warning passages" of Scripture and their proper function.

I fear the warning passages are often misused, and in different ways. On the one hand, a believer falling into a bit of pride and presumption may come to a warning passage, hastily regard it as not possibly referring to him or her, or as not capable of describing any kind of true "apostasy" based on other theological commitments, and so dismiss the warning altogether as inapplicable to them. On the other hand, a believer with a disturbed conscience or a weak sense of assurance may come to a warning passage and feel that it certainly describes them and they are already eternally ruined.

Against these misuses I advise regarding the warning passages as just that: warnings, to be heeded. They are not to be dismissed with pride, nor are they designed to cause despair. They are rather like road signs which warn of upcoming danger if a person continues down a certain path. Rocks falling! Hairpin turn, slow down! Deer crossing! The driver doesn't suppose he or she is the kind of person upon whom rocks could never fall, or who could careen off the edge of a curving mountain road; but nor does the driver give up hope and turn back the way he or she came. The driver presses on, but heeds the warnings, obeys the signs, corrects course as necessary. Whether one is ultimately convinced of eternal security based on Scripture or not, it is imperative that the warning passages are approached with the correct mindset. Even in the case of the most forceful possible articulation of eternal security/perseverance, we should regard these passages as one of the means or tools that God uses to keep his redeemed people on course, to the end of their lives.

4) The work of the Spirit in personal assurance

This brings us to a subject, personal sense of assurance. And it involves both indirect and direct works of the Spirit.

What I call "indirect" would be the fruits of sanctification, upon which a believer can reflect when examining himself. Self-examination is something that Scripture calls for in multiple ways, and therefore is advisable; but it is also something that can be thrown out of balance easily. What is often termed "morbid introspection" is what happens when a believer becomes so absorbed with and obsessed with analysis of his or her own life that the things that should be central in thought (Christ, the gospel, grace, the glory of God, Christian service) become peripheral, and the self becomes the center. Besides morbid excess, self-examination can also be skewed by impatience and tunnel vision, or limited perspective. Sanctification is a long, slow, gradual process, and personal Christian growth can only be rightly judged in terms of months or years or decades, not hours or days or even weeks. Sometimes, only other Christians in a person's life can accurately judge their growth--a believer who is constitutionally prone to guilt or doubt cannot always be objective enough with themselves to see the fruit of the Spirit working in his or her life. "Fruit" is an image Scripture uses for good reason--when looking at growth in righteousness in our lives, we must consider whether our good works and Christian lifestyles are organic (the opposite of "artificial") and whether they are growing. Growth takes time, just to re-emphasize that point.

The "direct" work of the Spirit in assurance is one of the more difficult topics to get our heads around. And that's no big surprise, for as Jesus told Nicodemus, the Spirit blows wherever it wants, has its visible effects, but no one knows where it came from or where it's going. He works subtly, invisibly, and sometimes in unexpected ways. But there are some relatively reliable ways by which we can encounter the Spirit's ordinary working, and put ourselves in the "path" of spiritual blessing, including the blessing of increased assurance. These "reliable ways" are the ordinary means of grace--the instruments God has chosen to use to channel his grace to his people. This communication of grace through certain means is not a mechnical or magical process, and it is not under an institutional church's or priest's control (although elders of local churches do wield a kind of declarative authority that is related). It is also not as if "grace" is a substance that fills up our metaphysical tanks somewhere in our souls. Rather, it is an experience of the presence of Christ himself to bless and to empower for relationship with God and with God's people. The ordinary means of grace--Word, sacraments, prayer, fellowship, discipline, and worship--faciliate union and communion with Christ.

And it is often as the eyes of our hearts are focused on Jesus that the Spirit opens our eyes to more of the glory of who he truly is, as the victorious Son of God, that our hearts, by reflex, as it were, reverberate with a loud "Yes!" of faith in him, and we at once know who he is and who were are in him. His Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8). So we must grow in skillful use of the means of grace, experiencing deeper and deeper communion with the triune God, to enjoy the fullness of what he intends to experience in terms of peace and fullness of assurance.

But there is so much more to say.

Wise believers of the past have wondered about, and written about the relationship between true saving faith and assurance. In other words, they asked the question, "Is assurance so much of the essence of true saving faith that without significant assurance you need to question the sincerity or adequacy of your faith?" In my opinion, the wisest answered "No" to that question. But is there biblical evidence that this is the case? In fact, there is.

What is the relationship of physical health to one's experience of assurance or lack thereof? Does the state of our physical bodies impact every area of our sanctification including this one? What about mental health? What do mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, etc. have to do with our spirituality? Is a simplistic, callous noutheticism pretending to be holistic biblical counseling the answer, which treats people like souls trapped in irrelevant bodies? Or are reductionistic, modern pharmacological and psychotherapeutic approaches better, which at worst treat people like animals with no moral agency or accountable spirituality? How about an arbitrary middle-ground? By the way, how much mental health depends on other aspects of physical health, in as-yet under-recognized ways in mainstream medicine?

As we can immediately see, a full discussion of assurance of salvation must involve a sophisticated theological anthropology (doctrine of man in his constitution, purpose, function, etc.), with a concomitant approach to holistic health and wellness. Mental disorders of depression, anxiety, and obsession are especially relevant to such discussions. We are body-soul unities in which each component of our being strongly affects the other. We are glorious beings made in God's image but fallen, living in a good and beautiful but fallen world. We experience a mixture of sin and misery. Some of the misery is due to our own sins. Some of it is due to others' sins in our lives. Some of it is due only to the sins of our first parents. Who can disentangle it all but God alone? But we must be mindful, balanced, and careful of all of these factors when seeking to grow in assurance or helping to counsel others towards the same.

I want to get as much of this information packed into one place as I can. I want it to be written relatively simply and clearly, at a level that a high school student can read (or these days, at least a college-aged student), which will already be a level down from some of the above. I don't know if I can do it, but I've wanted to try for a long time. I've started the project again and again. Over the years, my theology has matured (and I hope it will continue to do so even after I complete the project, if I ever do...which always makes later re-reading or editing harder and cringe-inducing). So perhaps 2024 is the time...time to learn some discipline for weekly writing goals(?!).