Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The modern world

Re-posted because it is "very wicked indeed" to deprive the young of historical perspective. From the very end of Evelyn Waugh's Scott-King's Modern Europe:
Later the headmaster sent for Scott-King.
"You know," he said, "we are starting this year with fifteen fewer classical specialists than we had last term?"
"I thought that would be about the number."
"As you know I'm an old Greats man myself. I deplore it as much as you do. But what are we to do? Parents are not interested in producing the 'complete man' any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?"
"Oh yes," said Scott-King. "I can and do." ....

"What I was going to suggest was — I wonder if you will consider taking some other subject as well as the classics? History, for example, preferably economic history?"
"No, headmaster."
"But, you know, there may be something of a crisis ahead."
"Yes, headmaster."
"Then what do you intend to do?"
"If you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world."
"It's a short-sighted view, Scott-King."
"There, headmaster, with all respect, I differ from you profoundly. I think it the most long-sighted view it is possible to take."
Evelyn Waugh, Scott-King's Modern Europe, Boston, 1949, pp. 88-89.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Among the Dead"

Via Anecdotal Evidence:
MY days among the Dead are past;
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old:
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.

With them I take delight in weal
And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

My thoughts are with the Dead; with them
I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
Partake their hopes and fears;
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.

My hopes are with the Dead; anon
My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.

"His Books," Robert Southey (1774-1843)

Patrick Kurp notes that the title gives it away.

Monday, November 13, 2017

"They who live under its protection..."

Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island (1790):

While I receive with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of affection and esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport from all classes of Citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have the wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy, a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the Father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

Coram Deo

From R.C. Sproul's response when asked “What’s the big idea of the Christian life?”:
I said, “The big idea of the Christian life is coram Deo. Coram Deo captures the essence of the Christian life.”

This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze. ....

The Christian who compartmentalizes his or her life into two sections of the religious and the nonreligious has failed to grasp the big idea. The big idea is that all of life is religious or none of life is religious. To divide life between the religious and the nonreligious is itself a sacrilege. ....

Sunday, November 12, 2017


The necessary prerequisite for liberty is self-control:
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lest we forget

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 an armistice took effect between the armed forces of the Allied Powers and Imperial Germany. The day is observed variously as Armistice Day, Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day. It is a day to honor all veterans, alive or dead.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

LOTR again?

The Times of London reports that another film iteration of The Lord of the Rings may come to cable:
In 1969 JRR Tolkien sold the film rights to his Lord of the Rings fantasy novel for £100,000 to help settle a tax bill.

It meant his family never fully benefited from the astonishing success of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, which generated more than £2 billion at the global box office. ....

Now, however, they [are in] negotiations with Amazon and Netflix for a television version of Lord of the Rings which — if it sees the light of day — would be one of the most expensive productions of all time. Likely beneficiaries include Tolkien’s two surviving children: a son, 92, and daughter, 88.

Reports in the US suggest that the Tolkien estate is quoting the streaming companies between $200 million and $250 million for the rights to bring Middle-earth to the small screen. This sum would not include the production costs or actors’ fees, which are likely to top $100 million per series, according to industry insiders.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, has taken the highly unusual step of becoming personally involved in the negotiations, according to Variety, the Hollywood trade paper. Bezos is a fan of fantasy fiction and is said to have instructed his Amazon Studios executives to find a Game of Thrones-style blockbuster. ....
This could be very good. The time that could be devoted to the story would allow for more character development and also could include more of the story. With luck they might avoid some of Jackson's more cartoonish errors — especially his portrayal of dwarves.  If produced like Thrones it would involve several seasons of multiple episodes each.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"The only Christian work is good work well done."

Dorothy L. Sayers:
The Church's approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly—but what use is all that if in the very centre of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table-legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter's shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie. Yet in her own buildings, in her own ecclesiastical art and music, in her hymns and prayers, in her sermons and in her little books of devotion, the Church will tolerate, or permit a pious intention to excuse, work so ugly, so pretentious, so tawdry and twaddling, so insincere and insipid, so bad as to shock and horrify any decent craftsman. And why? Simply because she has lost all sense of the fact that the living and eternal truth is expressed in work only so far as that work is true in itself, to itself, to the standards of its own technique. She has forgotten that the secular vocation is sacred. Forgotten that a building must be good architecture before it can be a good church: that a painting must be well painted before it can be a good sacred picture: that work must be good work before it can call itself God's work. ....
The official Church wastes time and energy, and, moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work—by which she means ecclesiastical work. The only Christian work is good work well done.
Dorothy L. Sayers, "Why Work?" in Creed or Chaos (1949)

Monday, November 6, 2017

A resting place

The music in the version above is Ralph Vaughan Williams's. The words both above and below were by Horatio Bonar (1808-1889). Tim Challies on the hymn:
.... In Bonar’s day the Scottish church had no substantial library of hymns since they sang metrical Psalms almost exclusively. Bonar had begun to write hymns before his ordination when he was serving as superintendent of a Sunday school. He found that the youth had little love for either the words or the tunes they were singing, so he set out to write a few hymns with simpler lyrics and already familiar tunes. These hymns were received wonderfully.

It wasn’t long after this that Bonar, apparently having a gift and an interest in writing verse, took to writing adult hymns. This continued as a habit while he served as pastor, and in the course of his ministry he published a number of hymn compilations.

“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” perhaps his most famous song, having found good reception not only in Scotland but also in the wider English-speaking world.

What makes the hymn so widely appealing may well be its focus on the gospel call of Christ to come to him, look to him, drink, and rest, and the simple call to obey and to find in him all that he has promised. It is simple, sweet and encouraging. ....
Another version. This one for a male chorus, from Towner's Male Choir (1894):

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Freedom was not an escape from obligations, but a call to obey them"

Via Anecdotal Evidence, Roger Scruton on Samuel Johnson:
Johnson’s eccentric habits...made his defence of orthodoxy all the more impressive. The search for the right opinion, the correct response, the sensible emotion was also, in Johnson’s world, an expression of the highest freedom. He could be haughty and compassionate, indignant and remorseful by turns, but in everything he responded to the world with an exalted sense of responsibility for his own existence. Freedom, for Johnson, was not an escape from obligations, but a call to obey them, whether or not they have been consciously chosen.

Friday, November 3, 2017

"The Christian characters talk like human beings, not tracts"

Lars Walker has discovered a mystery author he believes he is going to like: Sally Wright
.... I am delighted to report that author Wright has sailed past my critical misogyny to make me an immediate fan. She writes a pretty good male hero....

In Publish and Perish, first novel in a series, Ben Reese, World War II intelligence veteran, is an archivist at a private college in Ohio. The year is 1960. He is in England doing research when he gets news that his dearest friend has died of a sudden heart attack. Ben (who is his friend’s executor) rushes home to deal with the aftermath. He is disturbed by certain puzzling circumstances surrounding the death, and the local police chief agrees with him. Ben starts asking questions, and someone else dies, and then Ben himself becomes the target of a murder attempt.

We often complain about the poor quality of Christian literature. Sally Wright’s work is a shining example of the sort of thing we’ve been pleading for. The writing is superior, the characterizations and dialogue polished and entertaining, the mystery satisfying. .... The Christian characters talk like human beings, not tracts, and the values are unashamedly old-fashioned. ....
That sounded promising enough that I bought the Kindle edition of the book and also discovered that, if I like this book, there are more (and the Kindles are only $2.99).

Philippians 3:14

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Far too easily pleased"

I don't pray nearly enough or, when I do pray, nearly well enough. From the introduction to Ben Patterson's God's Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms:
Prayer is more than a tool for self-expression, a means to get God to give us what we want. It is a means he uses to give us what he wants, and to teach us to want what he wants. Holy Scripture in general, and the Psalms in particular, teach us who God is and what he wants to give.

When the members of his synagogue complained that the words of the liturgy did not express what they felt, Abraham Heschel, the great philosopher of religion, replied wisely and very biblically. He told them that the liturgy wasn't supposed to express what they felt; they were supposed to feel what the liturgy expressed. To be taught by the Bible to pray is to learn to want and feel what the Bible expresses—to say what it means and mean what it says.

Those who have practiced this kind of prayer over time make a surprising discovery: As they learn to feel what the Psalms express, their hearts and desires are enlarged. They find that what they once regarded as strong desires were really weak, puerile little wishes, debased inklings of what is good. Of course! Would not the God who made us in his own image understand better than we ever could what we really need? And shouldn't we ask him for it? As C.S. Lewis put it,
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
The best part of prayer is who you pray to. Answers to prayer are wonderful, but the Answerer is better. Spend enough time with Jesus, and you'll start to look and think and act like Jesus. Seeing is becoming. The church father Irenaeus said, "The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." It's true: God is never more glorified than when we come alive to the vision of God. Prayer is anticipation and preparation for the great day promised in Scripture when we will see Christ fully and "will be like him, for we will see him as he really is."

For all the saints...

Wikipedia notes "Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present"

For all the saints,
who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith
before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus,
be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
The golden evening
brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors
comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of
paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their Rock,
their Fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain
in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness,
their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a
yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant
rise in bright array;
The King of glory
passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion,
fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle,
they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee,
for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds,
from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl
streams in the countless host,
Singing to God,
the Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

“In the end I have my own religion. I made it up.”

Andrew Ferguson on an awful person:
.... Quinn is proof of the observation attributed to G.K. Chesterton: When a person ceases to believe in God, the danger isn’t that he will believe in nothing, but that he’ll believe in anything. In addition to her hexes and ghosts, her Tarot and telepathy, Sally believes in Ouija boards, palm reading, astrology, fortune telling, Hindu gods, telekinesis, witchcraft, and pretty much anything else that crosses her line of sight. Anything, that is, but God, biblically understood. “In the end I have my own religion,” she writes. “I made it up.” So this is where we are, 50 years after the elites dropped conventional religion in pursuit of…something they could make up.

Self-invented religions will always be more appealing than God. They make no particular demands on the believer, moral ones most importantly. It’s a handy omission. “I am,” she assures us, “a good and compassionate person, ethical and moral, embedded in core values, someone who cares about others.” Meanwhile, her memoir produces plenty of hard evidence to the contrary. There’s that dead fortune teller, for one thing. For another: Her account, utterly remorseless, of how she systematically set about seducing Bradlee away from his wife and children is as harrowing as the hexes. ....
I think a new tag, perhaps "terrible people," could be rapidly populated.

"I wonder, they know"

John Mark Reynolds: on All Hallows'
.... When Halloween arrives, I am happy. Thanksgiving, the best of secular holidays, and Christmas, the jolliest Christian day, are coming and I will wallow in both feasts. Halloween is its own good and if the culture has appropriated this religious day, then they are welcome to do so. ....

I am not talking about waiting until death and then being happy. Christianity says we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” At times, the dead seem near and this is happy. Sometimes I go to bed and think of the prayers and praise that ascend to God all the time from this growing family and friend circle with God. They are alive and see goodness, truth, and beauty face to face. ....

I do not love death, but I love the dead, because they are not truly dead. They are more alive than I am. I am dying, they are not just living, but growing more alive by the moment. I am heading for the grave, they have passed through the grave to God. I wonder, they know so they can be full of wonders. ....
I Do Not Love Death, but I Love the Dead

Sunday, October 29, 2017

"Arouse yourself: your Savior knocks..."

Via RedState, Bach Cantata BWV 180, "Adorn yourself, O dear soul, leave the dark pit of sin...."

The text.

Oswald did it

I taught high school history and social studies classes for thirty-five years. For almost all of those years I taught required 9th grade US history classes. Eventually I got pretty good at it. Each quarter one of the units involved the production of an essay that propounded a thesis, supported the thesis with evidence properly footnoted, and a conclusion flowing from the argument. Since these were 9th graders I supplied packets of primary and secondary sources for them to use although they were free to find other materials. Of the topics I gave them the most popular by far was the assassination of JFK. Since I used that subject year after year I became very familiar with the various conspiracy theories and the evidence (or, rather, the lack thereof) supporting them. There is really no reason to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the only shooter that day in Dallas. All of the alternate theories were answered long ago and it requires a genuine unwillingness to consider the evidence to believe otherwise. Peter Jennings' ABC documentary (2003) effectively dealt with all of the questions regarding a second gunman or an alternate assassin firing from somewhere other than the Schoolbook Depository. A thorough debunking of the various conspiracy theories can be found in Gerald Posner's Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (1993). If your understanding of the issues is based on Oliver Stone's movie, look further. Like most of his films JFK is pretty good as a movie and pretty terrible as history.

The President has decided to release the remaining documents relating to the investigation of the assassination. As of last night he has ordered that all those remaining should be released holding back only the names and addresses of people still living. I predict that nothing new of importance will be revealed. Was Oswald himself part of a conspiracy? People who know the most about him are doubtful that he could have worked in concert with anyone. From today's London Times:
Farris Rookstool, a former FBI analyst who spent nine years reading 500,000 pages of documents in the bureau’s Kennedy collection, said the notion that Russia controlled Oswald was seductive but flawed.

“I did the interviews with the KGB, the first FBI-authorised face-to-face meetings, and I can tell you they thought Oswald was just as crazy as we did. I don’t think they were trying to wash their hands of being involved with him but they were just being very candid. Oleg Nechiporenko [a KGB officer who also met Oswald in Mexico City] said they called him ‘the Tornado’ because he was spiralling out of control.

“If you strip Oswald down and look at him as just a human, he had antisocial personality disorders, he had a childlike understanding of world history and he didn’t take orders very well.

“When he was in Russia they did a two-year electronic surveillance on him and they finally realised the guy was an idiot. They thought this guy is obviously not an American double agent or false flag or a dangle. When they folded their operation over there they gave him 72 hours to leave the country.”
There are still people who believe Stanton had Lincoln assassinated or that Spain blew up the Maine in Havana harbor and there will always be people who think a professional assassin might have chosen an exposed position behind the wall of a public parking lot and fired over the heads of people lining a parade route.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

By Grace

Our Reformation Day/All Saints' Day worship service this morning seems to have been well received. I noted to all present that many of the elements were plagiarized without credit. I do, however, include the locations where they were found below.
Worship Theme
Saved by Grace through Faith

Meditation in Preparation for Worship:
Therefore being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand,
and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2 [KJV]
Prayer: Lord God of hosts, the Refuge of every sinner and the Strength of all who put their trust in you, we praise you for having made us partakers of the blessings of your Reformation. Without any merit on our part, you have sent your Holy Spirit into our hearts and brought us to faith in your dear Son, Jesus Christ. You have made known to us the perfect merit of Christ. You have directed our faith to rest on the exceedingly great and precious promises of your Gospel. You have revealed the beauty of your grace, which rescued us from a just condemnation and assured us of certain salvation in Christ. Grant us your grace that we may receive your forgiveness with thanksgiving. Use us as your witnesses in bringing the message of pardon in Christ to people everywhere. Open our eyes to a better understanding of your Word and a deeper appreciation of your grace that our faith in Christ Jesus may grow and flourish with the fruits of righteous living. Amen. (Source:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
A Litany (Psalm 46)
Leader: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Congregation: Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Hymn: A Mighty Fortress (verse 1)                         
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
Hymn: A Mighty Fortress (verse 2)                         
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; God speaks and the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord!
God makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
God breaks the bow, shatters the spear, and burns the shields with fire.