A Principian’s Reflections on the Matthew Code

Originally published on 

Way back when I was still a naive and optimistic freshman at Principia College I signed up to participate in an off-campus activity with some fellow students. It would take us away from the campus for several weeks, during which time it was of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE that we uphold the values of Principia and if we saw anyone partaking in un-Principia-like activities (aka breaking the prin code) we were to report them AT ONCE to the staff member who was tending to us.

My fellow freshman and I felt a little uneasy about ratting out our fellow students, but it was the sophomores (those wise older sophomores) who got really upset. What about the Matthew Code!? they demanded. What about it?! we asked. They didn’t tell you?! They sounded incredulous.

The Matthew Code is from Matthew 18:15-17, and most Christian Science groups omit “but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” which I think is rather silly.

The Matthew Code & My Experience With Hypocrisy at Principia

Originally published on 


(15) If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (16) But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (17) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.
(Matthew 18:15-17 – New International Version)

The Matthew Code, as the above quoted Bible verses have come to be known, was thrown at me and my fellow students at Principia College time and time again, and is a part of the moral code that Principia students are required to abide by. Now, I read the above verses, and I clearly come away with a certain interpretation, and no, I do not need anyone else’s interpretation to gain what I feel to be clarity on what these verses say and mean. It’s simple: if you encounter someone doing something wrong, you go to them directly on your own and talk to them about it; if they don’t listen, and don’t acknowledge that they’ve done something wrong, you bring a couple of friends (preferably mutual friends) along; if that fails, then you go to higher authorities to have the situation corrected and ‘balanced’, so to speak. You do not go to the authorities first. Now, I’m talking of someone committing minor moral offenses. If I see someone robbing a house, assaulting, or murdering, I’ll go straight to the police, no questions asked.

In the context of being a Principia student, I saw it as: if I encountered someone breaking the rules, I’d confront them myself first and seek to redress the situation that way, and if that didn’t work, go up the Matthew Code ladder from there. That’s how I saw it when I did have my own encounter with rule-breakers while I was at Principia. In practice however, the administrative authorities at Principia had a different take on the Matthew Code, and most of us students knew that, and many of us saw it as hypocritical. They wanted you to skip past the first few steps. Continue reading “The Matthew Code & My Experience With Hypocrisy at Principia”