Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Basic human decency morally surpasses any 'convictions.'”

.... In one memorable scene, Solzhenitsyn describes how a believing Jew shook his worldview. At the time he met him, Solzhenitsyn explains, “I was committed to that world outlook which is incapable of admitting any new fact or evaluating any new opinion before a label has been found for it...be it ‘the hesitant duplicity of the petty bourgeoisie,’ or the ‘militant nihilism of the déclassé intelligentsia.’” When someone mentioned a prayer spoken by President Roosevelt, Solzhenitsyn called it “hypocrisy, of course.” Gammerov, the Jew, demanded why he did not admit the possibility of a political leader sincerely believing in God. That was all, Solzhenitsyn remarks, but it was so shocking to hear such words from someone born in 1923 that it forced him to think. “I could have replied to him firmly, but prison had already undermined my certainty, and the principle thing was that some kind of clean, pure feeling does live within us, existing apart from all our convictions, and right then it dawned on me that I had not spoken out of conviction but because the idea had been implanted in me from outside.” He learns to question what he really believes and, still more important, to appreciate that basic human decency morally surpasses any “convictions.”

Once he admits that he has supported evil, he begins to ask where evil comes from. How do interrogators, who know their cases are fabricated and who use torture every time, continue to do their work year after year? He tells the story of one interrogator’s wife boasting of his prowess: “Kolya is a very good worker. One of them didn’t confess for a long time—and they gave him to Kolya. Kolya talked with him for one night and he confessed.”

One way to commit evil is simply “not to think,” but willed ignorance of evil already means “the ruin of a human being.” Those who tell Solzhenitsyn not to dig up the past belong to the category of “not-thinkers,” as do Western leftists who make sure not to know. The Germans, he argues, were lucky to have had the Nuremberg trials because they made not-thinking impossible. This Russian patriot advances a unique complaint: “Why is Germany allowed to punish its evildoers and Russia is not?"

Solzhenitsyn discovers yet another cause of totalitarianism’s monstrous evil: “Progressive Doctrine” or “Ideology.” In one famous passage, he asks why Shakespeare’s villains killed only a few people, while Lenin and Stalin murdered millions. The reason is that Macbeth and Iago “had no ideology.” Real people do not resemble the evildoers of mass culture, who delight in cruelty and destruction. No, to do mass evil you have to believe it is good, and it is ideology that supplies this conviction. “Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale of millions.”

One lesson of Gulag is that we are all capable of evil, just as Solzhenitsyn himself was. The world is not divided into good people like ourselves and evil people who think differently. “If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

The core chapter of Gulag, entitled “The Ascent,” explains that according to Soviet ideology, absorbed by almost everyone, the only standard of morality is success. If there are no otherworldly truths, then effectiveness in this world is all that counts. That is why the Party is justified in doing anything. For the individual prisoner, this way of thinking entails a willingness to inflict harm on others as a means of survival. Whether to yield to this temptation represents the great moral choice of a prisoner’s life: “From this point the roads go to the right and to the left. One of them will rise and the other descend. If you go the right—you lose your life; and if you go to the left—you lose your conscience.”

Some people choose conscience. To do so, they must believe, as Solzhenitsyn came to believe, that the world as described by materialism is only part of reality. In addition, there is, as every religion has insisted, a realm of objective values, which are not mere social constructs. You can’t make the right choice as a postmodernist.

Once you give up survival at any price, “then imprisonment begins to transform your former character in astonishing ways. To transform it in a direction most unexpected to you.” You learn what true friendship is. Sensing your own weakness, you become more forgiving of others and “an understanding mildness” informs your “un-categorical judgments.” As you review your life, and face your bad choices, you gain self-knowledge available in no other way. Above all, you learn that what is most valuable is “the development of the soul.” In the Gulag I nourished my soul, Solzhenitsyn concludes, and so I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” ....  [more]

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Jiminy Cricket isn’t infallible"

“I’ve prayed about this and I really feel like God told me that it would be okay.”

Those were the words that I heard when a young lady informed me that she was leaving her husband in order to live with another dude. She was happier with the other guy. She knew that God didn’t want her to be unhappy and so as she prayed that voice in her head confirmed that she had permission from the Almighty.

Don’t write me off as crazy, but I think she probably did hear a sort of “voice” in her mind that she attributed to God. And I don’t believe it was necessarily demonic. In fact I believe it is a voice that many of us hear on a daily basis. I believe many well-meaning believers attribute this voice to God.

That voice is your conscience. ... [more]

Monday, October 16, 2017

The right answer

From a review of a new collection of Antonin Scalia's speeches:
.... Readers will learn about a formative event that occurred as Scalia was finishing oral exams at Georgetown in 1957, before matriculating to Harvard Law. Walter W. Wilkinson of the history department posed what young “Nino,” as the valedictorian was known then, considered a “softball” question: “Of all the historical events you have studied, which one in your opinion had the most impact upon the world?” “How could I possibly get this wrong?” Scalia asked rhetorically on his return to Georgetown in 1998:
There was obviously no single correct answer. The only issue was what good answer I should choose. The French Revolution perhaps? Or the Battle of Thermopylae — or of Lepanto? Or the American Revolution? I forget what I picked, because it was all driven out of my mind when Dr. Wilkinson informed me of the right answer — or at least the right answer if I really believed what he and I thought I believed. Of course it was the Incarnation. Point taken. You must keep everything in perspective, and not run your spiritual life and your worldly life as though they are two separate operations.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Millions murdered

On the 100th anniversary of the first Communist revolution, ignorance of some of the greatest evils of modern times:
.... Half of young people admitted they had never heard of Lenin. And while 8 percent were ignorant of Adolf Hitler, and therefore clearly as ignorant as swans, it is what happened farther down the name-recognition list that was more alarming.

Fully 39 percent of young people associated George W. Bush with crimes against humanity, and 34 percent associated Tony Blair with the same. Which were higher percentages than for either Mao Tse-tung (20 percent) or Pol Pot (19 percent). The cause is not fellow-traveling but sheer ignorance. No less than 70 percent of young people said they had never heard of Chairman Mao, while 72 percent had never heard of the Cambodian génocidaire.

.... The figure of 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust is rightly set in our collective consciousness and conscience during our years of education and constantly reinforced through popular culture, political reference, and a whole panoply of institutions devoted to keeping memories alive. ....

But what are the consequences of societies with so little memory of 20 million deaths in the USSR? Or the 65 million deaths caused by efforts to instill Communism in China? If those 65 million Chinese deaths cannot detain us, what are the chances that anyone will care about the 2 million deaths in Cambodia? The million in Eastern Europe? The million in Vietnam? The 2 million (and counting) in North Korea? The nearly 2 million across Africa? The 1.5 million in Afghanistan? The 150,000 in Latin America? Not to mention the thousands of murders committed by Communist movements not in power, a number that could almost seem meager compared with the official slaughter?

Who could survey this wreckage — 100 million deaths in a century alone — and not recoil? Who would stand on top of these 100 million tragedies and think “Once more, comrades, though this time with subtly different emphases”? ....
The estimates above are conservative. From R.J. Rummel, Death by Government:


"To get better, it must get much worse."

Reading some more from Michael Dirda's essays for The American Scholar, I came across an account of his visit to a second-hand bookstore and his acquisitions that day. One was a book by Ross Thomas, an author who has never disappointed me. Haven't read this one for a while. Dirda:
The Fools in Town Are on Our Side, by Ross Thomas. Years ago, I traded my mint first of this crime thriller to my friend David Streitfeld—and regretted it almost immediately. In my years as a book editor, I used to call up Ross Thomas to review mysteries and spy novels, and, a consummate professional, he was always at his desk. Like his contemporary Charles McCarry, happily still with us, Thomas never quite received the acclaim he deserves, though his fans are legion. In a Times Literary Supplement survey, of 25 years ago or more, Eric Ambler chose this novel as a neglected classic of its genre. The title, by the way, comes from Huckleberry Finn. Along with Chinaman’s Chance and The Seersucker Whipsaw, which I’ve read, The Fools in Town are On Our Side is probably Thomas’s most admired novel.
From the description on the back of my paperback edition:
Lucifer Dye was born in Montana and raised in Shanghai's most distinguished bordello. Recently dismissed from Section Two, a secret American Intelligence Agency, he heads for San Francisco to be debriefed. Dye and Section Two are parting company....

Unemployed, armed only with a passport, a severance check, and his wits, Dye is approached by a man named Victor Orcutt. Orcutt's vocation is the cleaning up of corrupt cities through the application of Orcutt's First Law: "To get better, it must get much worse."

Orcutt proposes a $50,000 fee. Dye's assignment: to corrupt an entire American city. ....
The American Scholar: Wonder Books - Michael Dirda

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Let Us Now Praise Dover Books"

Michael Dirda has reviewed books for The Washington Post, The American Scholar, The New York Review of Books, and many others. He likes books and, importantly to me, books I like. I trust his taste. Several years ago he wrote an appreciation of Dover Books, a publishing house I discovered in high school or before. I still have many of Dover's products. Dirda:
.... I started to think about Dover Books and their importance in my own reading life. Because of Dover paperbacks, I was introduced to M.R. James’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and to the adventures of Ernest Bramah’s blind detective Max Carrados, marveled at the great cases of Jacques Futrelle’s Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen, known as The Thinking Machine.... Because of Dover Books I was gradually able to accumulate a small library of wonderful and unusual titles, ranging from the mysteries and ghost stories of Sheridan Le Fanu, to H.P. Lovecraft’s groundbreaking essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, to Martin Gardner’s first great debunking classic, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.
In those days of yore, Dover proudly trumpeted that their paperbacks were “designed for years of use,” that the paper wouldn’t deteriorate, and that the pages consisted of sewn signatures, with ample margins. Sometimes the outer cellophane layer of the covers would delaminate, but this didn’t affect the book in any serious manner: It would still open flat, and the type face, except in those publications that reproduced the actual pages of old magazine serials, would always be large and legible. In short, a Dover book was “a permanent book.” Best of all, the company’s offerings were cheap—only a few dollars new and often findable in thrift shops and second-hand bookstores. There must still be a couple of dozen Dover editions scattered around this house. Even now I sometimes take one out and study the lists of the many other Dover titles printed either on the inside covers or as an appendix. 
.... In my copy of Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, the inside cover carries an extensive list of “Dover Mystery, Detective, Ghost Stories, and Other Fiction,” including Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan, G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, and Five Victorian Ghost Novels, edited by E.F. Bleiler.

Everett F. Bleiler! Even as a boy, I noticed that this Bleiler guy introduced many of the books I most cared about. He seemed to have read everything, and, as I later learned, he actually had. ....

.... For more than 20 years Bleiler worked as an editor, later an executive vice president, at Dover, and was responsible for resdiscovering and making available some of the greatest names in Victorian and Edwardian popular fiction. ....
The images are of a few of the Dover books that are still in my library. They are all in remarkably good condition for large-format paperbacks printed in the 1960s. And the paper has not deteriorated.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Where the cool kids are

David Brooks today on a new book by Alan Jacobs:
.... A lot of our thinking is for bonding, not truth-seeking, so most of us are quite willing to think or say anything that will help us be liked by our group. We’re quite willing to disparage anyone when, as Marilynne Robinson once put it, “the reward is the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved.” And when we don’t really know a subject well enough, in T.S. Eliot’s words, “we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts,” and go with whatever idea makes us feel popular.

This is where Alan Jacobs’s absolutely splendid forthcoming book How to Think comes in. ...Jacobs’s emphasis on the relational nature of thinking is essential for understanding why there is so much bad thinking in political life right now.

Jacobs makes good use of C.S. Lewis’s concept of the Inner Ring. In every setting — a school, a company or a society — there is an official hierarchy. But there may also be a separate prestige hierarchy, where the cool kids are. They are the Inner Ring.

There are always going to be people who desperately want to get into the Inner Ring and will cut all sorts of intellectual corners to be accepted. As Lewis put it, “The passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.” ....
C.S. Lewis: "The Inner Ring"

The Art of Thinking Well - The New York Times

Monday, October 9, 2017

Oliver Wiswell

Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957) wrote historical fiction and was very good at it. Wikipedia notes that "Roberts' historical fiction often focused on rehabilitating unpopular persons and causes in American history," among which was Benedict Arnold. I long ago read Roberts' Northwest Passage (1937), set during the French and Indian War, and his Oliver Wiswell (1940), a book that tells the story of the War for Independence from a Loyalist point of view. From a Kirkus review of Oliver Wiswell when it was first published:
...[H]ere is the first, so far as I know, full-bodied story of the American Revolution from the side of the Loyalists. .... [H]ere we see the story of a Civil War, when we have accustomed ourselves to think of the Colonies as putting up virtually a united front to England. We see in many parts of the country, a majority of the people, and everywhere a majority of the upper classes and the intelligentsia of their day, determined on finding a way out without bloodshed, and paying the price in being made victims of lawless mobs, incendiaries, pillagers, sadists of the worst type, thrust from their homes, tarred and feathered, tortured and often killed — all because they demanded their right to independence of belief in the face of a new kind of tyranny. Oliver Wiswell was a Yale undergraduate, who came home on the eve of his father's victimization — and who tells his story. .... This is no paean of praise for either side. He is extraordinarily objective, standing firm for an ideal, for a right, seeing the abysmal stupidity of both sides, but holding fast, fighting when need arose, for what the Loyalists believed in. .... Roberts has told great stories.... This is his best book.
It is a book I really liked when I first read it and it almost made me sympathetic to the Loyalist cause. The book does what a work of historical fiction is supposed to do. And it certainly makes clear the cost of revolution.

I took the image above from the web. My copy lost its dust cover before I owned it.

OLIVER WISWELL by Kenneth Roberts | Kirkus Reviews

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"His boring existence and his pointlessness"

Ever since the murders in Las Vegas I have been waiting for an explanation. Why did that guy do that? What was the motive? I want it to make some kind of sense. Stephen McAlpine, referring to a David Aaronovitch column in The Times, thinks "The Pointlessness of Vegas is Its Point":
.... Paddock’s actions are the perfect Nietzschean response are they not? Long before 58 people died in a hail of automatic gunfire, the idea of God was dead to Paddock. And with the idea of God long dead, Paddock has gotten away with it. ....

But as Aaronovitch observes the need to find a motive, a reason for it beyond the sheer pointlessness of it all, is a necessity in our times, but ultimately a refusal to face the appalling alternative, that there was no point. As he says:
There could yet be a true Paddock out there, full of motive, but the motiveless one feels right to me. And the picture it creates shows, in many ways, something worse even than political violence or grudge killing.
Here we are living in a world which scorns the religious dogma and calls out for us to be brave and go into the world alone and out of the world again alone, yet when someone does exactly that, and takes their actions to the logical conclusion of that position, everyone scurries to their comfort blanket of motives. ....

Aaronovitch continues:
The Paddock described so far emerges not from cause but from causelessness, not from a sense of location but of anomie or absence of normal social standards. He existed, and would continue to exist, in a vast, exurban, empty landscape, with no one much to love, if he ever loved. Day after day after day with only himself to please. Stephen Paddock with his boring existence and his pointlessness is what is really terrifying.
Rather than scratch around for conspiracy theories, wasting time coming up with motives, do yourself a favour and pick up Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. That cuts to the chase. That exposes the mind of a man who has no reason to kill anyone other than the idea that he can and it won’t matter. ....

We can’t face the awful fact that Paddock got away with it. Plenty of money, no real problems, no real concerns, nothing in his past to haunt him, nothing in his future to worry him except for the oblivion of death. And if that didn’t worry him, and without a God to judge your actions why would it, then Paddock got away with it. ....
Except...

Grant

.... His overall priority as president was to support vigorously the policy of Reconstruction. When many white southerners tried to deny freed slaves their rights, he unhesitatingly sent in federal troops to enforce the law. When the newly organized Ku Klux Klan launched what Chernow calls “the worst outbreak of domestic terrorism in American history,” Grant suspended habeas corpus, declared martial law and fought for legislation aimed at the Klan. He was “sure-footed,” Chernow writes, “when it came to protecting freed people. … He knew that the Klan threatened to unravel everything he and Lincoln and Union soldiers had accomplished at great cost in blood and treasure.” ....

The end of Grant’s presidency found him without a home, money, or plans. He and Julia took a two-year trip around the world, during which he was feted as a hero in capitals from Europe to Asia. Settling in New York, he was snared by a Wall Street scam that left him financially bereft. Having nothing to leave Julia, he agreed to write several articles and eventually a memoir of his wartime service. His friend Mark Twain, a former Confederate soldier, realized what a hit his work would be and arranged a highly remunerative book deal that assured Julia’s security. Grant devoted himself to the project, correcting the public record where necessary and otherwise telling the story through his own experiences. By now, he was dying of a painful cancer in his throat, but he persisted, showing the same courage he had displayed in the war; he finished his manuscript only days before his death. The memoir sold 300,000 copies, a huge number for the time. It also came to be seen as a great literary achievement, perhaps the greatest memoir of any American president.

Friday, October 6, 2017

"It ain't my goal to gain the whole world, but give up my soul."

Diving headlong into one of the most controversial moments in Bob Dylan's storied career and paying no heed to unbelievers, Jennifer Lebeau's Trouble No More unearths rare concert footage from the singer's "Christian period," when he toured small venues playing nothing but songs about his new faith. The singer's refusal to perform his hits angered fans at the time, and many critics were unkind to the new compositions. A chance for reappraisal comes next month, when Columbia/Legacy's latest Bootleg Series installment will collect many hours of live recordings from this period. Lebeau's film will be part of that set's "Deluxe Edition," and will be catnip for fans of the albums Slow Train Coming and Saved. But seen on the big screen at the New York Film Festival, it proved something of a come-to-Jesus moment for unconverted viewers as well, loaded with fine performances of songs that fit comfortably in the songwriter's canon. ....

On "Saved," Dylan puts the message across as fervently as a tent-revivalist, his band chugging along like a train on straight tracks. On the rarity "Ain't Going to Hell for Anybody," he acknowledges his sinful ways and puts them behind him.

Though he has six African-American backup singers, this show doesn't evoke the sounds of the church the way, for example, Lyle Lovett does with his Large Band. Rather, it weaves them into the kind of rock music Dylan was already making at this time. Tim Drummond's bass (which cuts loose on songs like "Solid Rock") and Jim Keltner's drumming keep Spooner Oldham's organ from ever sounding churchy. ....
I don't believe I have ever heard ""Ain't Going to Hell for Anybody" so I explored YouTube and found this performance:


I found it difficult to understand the words to the verses — the chorus is pretty clear — and commentary on the song indicates that in typical Dylan fashion they frequently change from performance to performance. Bob Dylan Lyrics: "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell (For Anybody)"

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"The valiant Toad"

Michael Dirda reviews The River Bank, a new sequel to The Wind in the Willows, set soon after the victory of Toad Hall, and declares it "an absolutely delightful book." He quotes this passage from the new book:
Over the mantel, the Toad had caused to be mounted a tasteful arrangement of crossed swords and pistols, clustered appetizingly on either side of a large painting in a gilded rococo frame, of a mighty Toad brandishing pistols in each hand, vanquishing quite a crowd of Weasels, Stoats, and Foxes, as a rather smaller Badger, Mole and Water Rat looked on admiringly from the corners of the picture. There was some sort of thunderstorm going on in the background, and a bit of sunlight breaking through managed to illuminate the Toad while leaving everything else in gloom. A small brass plate affixed to the frame read, The Valiant Toad, Amidst the Fray.
Ordered.

Michael Dirda reviews 'The River Bank' - The Washington Post

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"New Light"

A few days ago on Facebook I linked to this book review, "The Great Awakening and the Collapse of New England Congregationalism," by John Turner. About the first "Great Awakening" Turner writes
...George Whitefield and a host of imitators set about convincing New England’s Congregationalists that their prior religious experiences were worthless and built upon a “sandy” foundation. Instead, “the only experience that counted was the new birth,” no longer a decades-long process but now “a momentous event that could be dated with accuracy and narrated with confidence.” ....

Most ministers welcomed the earliest awakenings. After all, they resulted in scores of new church members. Many soon changed their minds. The emotionality, the physical manifestations, the boldness of converts, were all too much. Those who soured on the revivals found themselves denounced as unconverted by itinerants and the revived in their own parishes. Very few ministers managed to hold their churches together. At best, churches divided into New Light and Old Light factions, if not into separate churches. At worst, the tumult of the awakenings spawned a host of fractious dissenting movements. Within towns and even within families, New Englanders could reach no consensus on questions such as, “what did it mean to be a professor, a new convert, a visible saint, or an experienced Christian?” ....
I wondered how this might have affected Seventh Day Baptist churches since the earliest in North America were also in New England. Janet Thorngate, who recently edited Baptists in Early North America: Newport, Rhode Island, Seventh Day Baptists, responded:
.... Initially Baptists ignored or were opposed to what has become known as America's First Great Awakening, a time of spiritual revival led by George Whitfield of England & others. According to C.C. Goen, Baptists opposed it because of their suspicion of those espousing infant baptism, their "isolationist outlook," and their aversion to strong Calvinism (some SDBs were Calvinist, some Arminian, but at this time they didn't deem the difference particularly important). Yet, ultimately Baptists profited greatly from the Awakening because many leaving the Congregational churches joined Baptist churches or formed new Baptist churches. I do deal briefly with the effects on the Newport and [First] Hopkinton churches in my book ....  There is quite a bit of reference (mostly negative) to New Lights in the [First] Hopkinton records, but estimates of how many left the church during that time were exaggerated since many left for other reasons (e.g., those moving west with the church's blessings, to form the new church in Shrewsbury, NJ, etc.) SDBs, like other Baptists, were later poised to reap significant benefits from the 2nd Great Awakening following the Revolutionary War.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Reading aloud is really important"

The Five Books site asks Cressida Cowell, herself an author of children's books, to nominate "The Best Magic Books for Children." On her first choice, The Ogre Downstairs, she says:
I...read it to all my little siblings and cousins. So I not only enjoyed it myself but I passed it on to them. That power of reading aloud to younger children, making them laugh and seeing them as excited as I was, I think it’s possibly part of why I’m doing what I’m doing now.

I think reading aloud is really important isn’t it? Sharing a story as a family.

Yes, I write all of my books to be read aloud and that’s why they’re all a bit of a performance. I write my books specifically to be read aloud, to be enjoyed by the adults as well. But also as a performance.... It’s all done to make it a performance, so that it is fun to read aloud. ....
I haven't read all five. I know nothing about The Ogre Downstairs (1974) and although I have read Edith Nesbit I haven't read this one: The Five Children and It (1902). Her third choice is The Hobbit (1937):
The Hobbit is such a richly imagined fantasy that, especially as a child, you can live in it. It is so completely immersive. The Hobbit also contains one of my favourite scenes in children’s literature – the riddling match with Gollum.
Her other choices are The Sword in the Stone (1938) by T.H. White and The Wizard of Earthsea (1968) by Ursula K. Le Guin. I thought it notable that none were published after 1974 (over forty years ago) and the earliest barely within the beginning of the 20th century.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Baptist

The Center for Baptist Renewal continues a series on an "Evangelical Baptist Catholicity Manifesto" with Article IV, "Baptist Distinctives," from which:
We have deliberately moved in the Manifesto from what we hold most in common with other Christians (the Trinity, the good news of Christ’s life & work) to what we hold in common with other Protestants, to, now, what makes us distinctly Baptist. .... While the canon of “Baptist distinctives” is debated, there are at least five that are readily identifiable and agreed upon by most Baptists throughout space and time: the necessity of personal conversion, a regenerate church, believers’ baptism, congregational governance, and religious liberty. ....

...[W]e should note that while none of these distinctives have theological priority in Baptist life, they do have a sort of logical priority or ordering. An emphasis on personal conversion gives rise to an affirmation of believers-only baptism, which in turn necessarily prompts affirmation of regenerate church membership, a corollary of which is congregational governance. The last distinctive, religious liberty (referred to by some as “soul freedom” on an individual level and “separation of church and state” on a governmental level), arises from the previous four and also provides the cultural and theological context in which they can be exercised to the fullest. ....

We believe that these Baptist beliefs have much to commend them both biblically and theologically. So we do not wish to keep them to ourselves, as it were, but instead to press them home to all willing partners in cross-denominational dialogue. As we have stated previously, we believe that the Baptist tradition is a renewal movement within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Thus, we commend our distinctives for consideration by the whole church of the Lord Jesus Christ. .... Each tradition has its own unique gifts to offer the whole church. .... [much more]

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In the sure and certain hope

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
And if I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
The greatest act of faith a man can perform is the act that we perform every night. We abandon our identity, we turn our soul and body into chaos and old night. We uncreate ourselves as if at the end of the world: for all practical purposes we become dead men, in the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection. (G.K. Chesterton, The Meaning of Dreams)
From an essay about the phrase "our daily bread" in the Lord's Prayer by Philip Lawton in the current Sabbath Recorder:
Humans are interesting creatures. We fight and beg and steal for control of our lives, but then every night we lay down that control. We trust that we will wake the next morning. But the truth is we have no control over whether that will happen. Every night when you go to bed you have faith that you will wake the next morning. When we are sleeping we are at our most vulnerable. And yet even the strongest control freak will go to bed each night. The irony of that is staggering.

What I realized this summer is that every day I wake is a blessing from God. There are a million things that could happen to me while I sleep and I have no control over any of them. I am quite literally putting my life in the hands of someone else. If the power goes out, I could die. If lightning strikes and shorts out my CPAP, I could die. If aliens come and abduct me in my sleep…. well maybe not that. But the point is that I have no control over what happens to me while I sleep. And that is exactly the way that God wants it. ....

"No more a stranger, nor a guest..."

A friend's post today reminded me of this post here from 2012:
My favorite hymn paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm: Isaac Watts' "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need."
My shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
He leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay;
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Monday, September 25, 2017

Another "Golden Age"

If the 1920s and '30s were the "Golden Age" for the detective novel, then the 1950s and 60's may have been the Golden Age of spy fiction:
Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, appeared in 1953, and Jack Higgins’s The Eagle Has Landed — about a Nazi plot to kidnap Churchill — came out in 1975. In the two decades between these two famous books, the British thriller dominated English-language adventure fiction. It was, as those of a certain age know, a particularly blissful time to be a youthful reader....

Their heroes regularly confronted Nazis, ex-Nazis and proto-Nazis, the secret police of any and all communist countries and a variety of “super-rich and power-mad villains, traitors, dictators, rogue generals, mad scientists, secret societies” and “ruthless businessmen.” They were seldom books that asked “Whodunit?” but rather “How will the hero ever manage to survive?” ....
Michael Dirda is here reviewing Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, a new book about those books, many of which I read growing up in those years. In the review Dirda mentions many of the authors and titles.