The parable of Jim and Joe

Setting: Joe returns home after work to find a package on his doorstep: it’s a present from his friend Jim in Milwaukee! How thoughtful of him! He opens it up to find a book on origami, a topic of common interest among the two and their mutual friends in the Origami Club. Overjoyed, he calls Jim up.

Joe: How can I ever thank you!

Jim: Don’t worry about it – I found it at a bookstore down the street.

Joe: This book has always been too expensive for me to buy.

Jim: I know, but since I could afford it and I knew you needed it–

Joe: I can’t thank you enough, Jim! You drove all the way to Boston to deliver it!

Jim: I’m sorry?

Joe: I said thanks for making that long trip to get it here. That’s means more to me than the book itself!

Jim: Well Jim, of course I didn’t actually drive it there.

Joe: Oh, Jim, tell me you didn’t buy an airplane ticket just to bring me this book! What a friend you are! Wait’ll I tell Simon…

Jim: Uh, Joe…I just sent it Media Mail®. Didn’t you see the packaging? What’d you expect? I’m a Postal Service manager!

Joe: Pretty sly, Jim. Way to test my faith in your friendship! But as you see, I’ve passed! Besides, I just remembered that Larry told me you were going to be hand-delivering me a present, so I guess this was it! You see, I know enough about you to realize that you’re much too good a friend to just send it through the mail – why, my present could have gotten lost in the shuffle! No, you’re much too conscientious for that. Plus, you’re not a liar, so what you told Larry must have been true. Oh, Simon is gonna be so jealous!

Jim: I sent a copy to Simon and the other club members, too. And as for Larry, I told him I was bringing it with me to the post office rather than putting it in the mailbox. Either he got mixed up a little on the details or you misunderstood him. But anyway, I did pay for insurance on it – I would have gotten it to you one way or another, you know.

Joe: Unbelievable. I just realized what happened: you rode along in – or maybe even drove – the mail truck just to make sure it got here! Probably wanted to make sure it didn’t run out of gas or make a wrong turn anywhere. Pastor Duane always said that mail trucks can’t get anywhere without running into some problem or other. So the fact that the package arrived at my doorstep is proof positive that you intervened to make sure the delivery happened without any hitches. That’s it, isn’t it? Whaddaya wanna bet that Simon swallows your clever cover story hook, line, and sinker! He never did like you as much as I do.

Jim: You’re not listening to me: I sent it through the mail because I of all people am aware of the contingencies of mail travel. Besides, I mostly just wanted you to enjoy the book, you know.

Joe: Heh heh…all right, good stuff, but you better tone it down or Simon and the others definitely won’t believe me. I think you might have covered your tracks too well, Jim! Don’t worry, we’ll make sure you get the proper credit: I’m going to get Mike, Bill, and Phil to verify that you were in the mail truck, and then–

Jim: Joe, I’m telling you, I just sent it through the mail, normal channels, and I didn’t have to personally interfere with the delivery.

Joe: But Larry said–

Jim: Joe, just enjoy the book, ok? And you know, if I am not telling you the truth about this now, why should you believe what I supposedly told Larry?

Joe: But–

Jim: Who are you going to believe? What you think Larry heard me say or me?

Joe: <long pause> You sly dog! Almost had me there! Now let me see what kind of honor I could give this gift of yours…how does a museum and theme park sound?

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  • Per your request, Joe, I’ve done a little research. I have verified that Jim was NOT in the mail truck as you have claimed. Jim sent it Media Mail from his local US Post Office. Why not look at the package and observe the blatant proof that it went through the USPS? See the Media Mail stamp on the envelope? See the postmark? It’s dated 14.6 billion yea—er, 6 days ago. What will it take to convince you of this truth?

  • Per your request, Joe, I’ve done a little research. I have verified that Jim was NOT in the mail truck as you have claimed. Jim sent it Media Mail from his local US Post Office. Why not look at the package and observe the blatant proof that it went through the USPS? See the Media Mail stamp on the envelope? See the postmark? It’s dated 14.6 billion yea—er, 6 days ago. What will it take to convince you of this truth?

  • Now if only the other Mike would affirm what you meant by this, I might start to buy it. I’m afraid you and he stand on opposite sides of the “edge of the mail service”, so I naturally must discount your claims.

  • Now if only the other Mike would affirm what you meant by this, I might start to buy it. I’m afraid you and he stand on opposite sides of the “edge of the mail service”, so I naturally must discount your claims.

  • tom

    The way I understand your parable, which I doubt is your intent, is that we should just accept the package of life without requiring a personal Creator to sign the package with His blood.

  • tom

    The way I understand your parable, which I doubt is your intent, is that we should just accept the package of life without requiring a personal Creator to sign the package with His blood.

  • Hi Tom, and welcome to my blog!

    The questions to be asked are:
    1) Must the book have been delivered personally for it to have been sent personally? Was there or was there not someone who bought the book, packaged it up, paid the postage, dropped it in the outgoing mail, etc.? Could Joe have ever received a book that someone didn’t send?

    2) Does a preference for mode of delivery on the part of the recipient constrain the sender? (my main point)

    3) If you were to send a valuable gift in the mail, would you be ambivalent if the recipient saw it fit to terminate your relationship upon its arrival? (or maybe I’m misunderstanding your point, Tom)

  • Hi Tom, and welcome to my blog!

    The questions to be asked are:
    1) Must the book have been delivered personally for it to have been sent personally? Was there or was there not someone who bought the book, packaged it up, paid the postage, dropped it in the outgoing mail, etc.? Could Joe have ever received a book that someone didn’t send?

    2) Does a preference for mode of delivery on the part of the recipient constrain the sender? (my main point)

    3) If you were to send a valuable gift in the mail, would you be ambivalent if the recipient saw it fit to terminate your relationship upon its arrival? (or maybe I’m misunderstanding your point, Tom)

  • tom

    Steve,

    My point, and I think yours too, is that Joe is too wrapped up in the mode of delivery not the package itself to appreciate the package.

    Here is my point. God gave rise to the Big Bang which would give rise to life. This part of the story is exactly the same as it is for Deism. Your parable seems to promote Deism — that we should simply be appreciative of life without concerning ourselves with the particulars and intents of the force that gave rise to life.

    A little hermeneutics studying your writings would indicate that this is not what you meant. I am sure you and every Christian see atheism as empty and unhappy, but your definition of a fulfilling life is centered around a personal God — that there were these ultimate sacrifices made just for li’l ol’ you. And like Joe, any challenge that says, “No, really, there is no support for that. This is all there is.” is met with a response of faith.

    So, while I’ve taken you a little out of context, it seems that the parable can also work at the level of a Deity talking to a Christian. How would you say that the parable works at the level of your original intent, but not at the level I’ve described?

  • tom

    Steve,

    My point, and I think yours too, is that Joe is too wrapped up in the mode of delivery not the package itself to appreciate the package.

    Here is my point. God gave rise to the Big Bang which would give rise to life. This part of the story is exactly the same as it is for Deism. Your parable seems to promote Deism — that we should simply be appreciative of life without concerning ourselves with the particulars and intents of the force that gave rise to life.

    A little hermeneutics studying your writings would indicate that this is not what you meant. I am sure you and every Christian see atheism as empty and unhappy, but your definition of a fulfilling life is centered around a personal God — that there were these ultimate sacrifices made just for li’l ol’ you. And like Joe, any challenge that says, “No, really, there is no support for that. This is all there is.” is met with a response of faith.

    So, while I’ve taken you a little out of context, it seems that the parable can also work at the level of a Deity talking to a Christian. How would you say that the parable works at the level of your original intent, but not at the level I’ve described?

  • How would you say that the parable works at the level of your original intent, but not at the level I’ve described?

    Need it do so? I’m not sure why this simple story should be required to attack all other positions but my own in one fell swoop; it wouldn’t trouble me if it were compatible with a position other than my own, so long as it’s not compatible with the one I’m critiquing.

    But to address your comments, I took it as a given that those who receive gifts are ungrateful and missing out on a fulfilling relationship if they do not maintain a friendship with the ones who give them gifts. It might help to compare the similarities of the conversation above with the one that would have transpired between Jim and Simon (think Conway Morris). You would see Simon also acknowledging Jim’s gift, and find at the end of the call that their friendship was trucking along quite well, the same result as the conversation between Joe and Jim, despite Joe’s confusion.

    But you’ll see why I can’t contrast these conversations with a conversation between Jim and Dick or Jim and Antony. It’s quite obvious: Dick is not only ungrateful to Jim, but he doesn’t even acknowledge Jim’s existence despite the package on the doorstep; Antony doesn’t expect that Jim even has a telephone number at which to be reached, so he doesn’t bother seeking out a phone number. In other words, the conversation is itself predicated on a personal God with whom a relationship is maintained. So I don’t see how it may be used as an argument for deism, although as I said before, bully for deists if I’m wrong about that.

  • How would you say that the parable works at the level of your original intent, but not at the level I’ve described?

    Need it do so? I’m not sure why this simple story should be required to attack all other positions but my own in one fell swoop; it wouldn’t trouble me if it were compatible with a position other than my own, so long as it’s not compatible with the one I’m critiquing.

    But to address your comments, I took it as a given that those who receive gifts are ungrateful and missing out on a fulfilling relationship if they do not maintain a friendship with the ones who give them gifts. It might help to compare the similarities of the conversation above with the one that would have transpired between Jim and Simon (think Conway Morris). You would see Simon also acknowledging Jim’s gift, and find at the end of the call that their friendship was trucking along quite well, the same result as the conversation between Joe and Jim, despite Joe’s confusion.

    But you’ll see why I can’t contrast these conversations with a conversation between Jim and Dick or Jim and Antony. It’s quite obvious: Dick is not only ungrateful to Jim, but he doesn’t even acknowledge Jim’s existence despite the package on the doorstep; Antony doesn’t expect that Jim even has a telephone number at which to be reached, so he doesn’t bother seeking out a phone number. In other words, the conversation is itself predicated on a personal God with whom a relationship is maintained. So I don’t see how it may be used as an argument for deism, although as I said before, bully for deists if I’m wrong about that.