Monday, May 22, 2017


3.) “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

4.) “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”


I've just been reviewing all the posts on this site tagged Inklings. There is a lot to like, if I do say so myself. The lot.


Last Friday my brother and I, along with close friends, visited Marquette University to see the Tolkien Collection archived in the university library. Marquette purchased thousands of items for the collection from Tolkien himself in 1956 for less than $5,000. The collection includes "the original manuscripts and multiple working drafts for three of the author's most celebrated books, The Hobbit (1937), Farmer Giles of Ham (1949), and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955)...," among other things. If you like Tolkien, you would probably enjoy a visit — we attended a public showing for which reservations are required.

Although the University owns the manuscripts, they do not hold the copyrights and consequently photographing the items is forbidden without permission from The Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. Nobody in our tour had such permission. These illustrations are from a site that may have. The posts at that site describe very much the same experience we also enjoyed at Marquette.

One of Tolkien's attempts at a first page for The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien's early art for the West-gate of Moria

Now I need to re-visit Wheaton College's Wade Center where can be found:
...materials by and about seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Confer on me a blessed end"

Blind and restricted to his deathbed, Johann Sebastian Bach asked a fellow organist to play one of his own hymns. Bach then did what any brilliant composer would have done. ....

...[H]e retitled the work and modified its strains in a manner which perfectly addressed his circumstances. Anticipating his imminent encounter with his Creator, he changed the name to Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit (Before Your Throne I Now Appear). The first and last verses of the hymn are as follows.
Before your throne I now appear,
O God, and beg you humbly
Turn not your gracious face
From me, a poor sinner.
Confer on me a blessed end,
On the last day waken me Lord,
That I may see you eternally:
Amen, amen, hear me.

Bach’s Deathbed Hymn « Mere Inkling

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Read and preached, prayed and sung

I have yet to find anything at this site with which I disagree. Indeed, I like what I've read so far very much. Yesterday: "How Scripture Fills All of Worship":
The environment of the pulpit is not only formed by the Word, but also filled with the Word. It is commonly said that in the worship of the church the Word is read and preached, prayed and sung, and seen. The reading of God’s Word in corporate worship has been evaporating for some time. In many churches today, all that remains of the Word read aloud to the congregation is a verse or two at the opening of the service. But the command to read the Word publicly (1 Tim. 4:13) is not a call to nod to it in passing. It is a call to read it thoughtfully and thoroughly.
Each of these points is elaborated in the post:
  • Reading Scripture in worship is not merely a call to give attention, but a call to hear God’s revelation of Himself. .... Readings from the Old Testament and the New Testament ought to be common. ....
  • The preaching of the Word is not accomplished by spring-boarding from one text into a talk divorced from the text or the theology of the text. ....
  • The Word must also be prayed in corporate worship. Prayer is not only a congregation’s appeal to God for what it lacks or needs, but also its praise based on who God is and what He has done. This means that proper prayer is necessarily grounded in the Word....
  • The Word must also be sung in worship. ....
  • The Word is seen in the ordinances. In baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the gospel is preached. .... [more]
Among the "Fellows" at the Center for Baptist Renewal are David Dockery, Nathan Finn, Thomas Kidd, Patrick Schreiner, and many others, mostly pastors or academics, heavily Southern Baptist.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Baptist renewal?

Timothy George describes the "newly formed Center for Baptist Renewal" and I find myself sympathetic to its goals:
.... What does this form of evangelical Baptist catholicity look like? The Center has issued an inaugural manifesto, which lists eleven principles, beginning with the Trinity, the Gospel, and the Scriptures—defined as inspired, inerrant, and infallible. The famous solae of the Reformation are mentioned, along with historic Baptist distinctives including regenerate church membership, believers’ baptism, congregational polity, and religious freedom. ....

On the basis of these principles, the Center has made specific proposals related to Baptist church life. These include the use of the classic creeds of the early church and the confessions of the Reformation (including Baptist confessions). They include the enrichment of common worship by lectionary readings, the liturgical calendar, the biblical and historical prayers of the church (especially the Lord’s Prayer), corporate confession of sin, and the assurance of pardon. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are described as “signs and seals of God’s grace, expressions of individual faith and bonds of the church’s covenantal unity in Christ.” Brandon D. Smith, another leader of the Center, has called the Lord’s Supper “more than a memory” and set forth a careful biblical justification for its weekly celebration in worship. .... (more)
The Center for Baptist Renewal website.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The delusions of biblical scholars

At First Things Matthew Walther, reviewing a recent book, writes about "The Last Great Homilist," Ronald Knox (1888-1957). Knox, Walther writes, was the "author of essays, parodies, apologetics, criticism, light verse, and memoirs; scholar and author of detective fiction; ecclesiastical historian; translator; and homilist of genius.":
Ronald Knox
.... All the while he scribbled away, writing detective novels (largely to support the Oxford chaplaincy), essays, pamphlets, articles, translations of spiritual classics...catechetical material, and much else. He scripted a radio program about a communist invasion of Britain, which, much like the famous Orson Welles broadcast that it inspired, led to panic among unsuspecting listeners. He invented and, with the help of Dorothy Sayers and others, refined the so-called “Sherlockian Game,” a parody of the higher criticism in which the Historical Holmes, obscured by the errors and interpolations of Watson and his lying followers, is revealed....

Such teasing was more than a parlor game; it was the only polite way in which a sensibility such as Knox’s could have engaged with the delusions of positivist biblical scholars. ....
Knox, along with Chesterton, Sayers, Christie, and others, was a member of the Detection Club (and author of its Ten Commandments). As indicated above, Ronald Knox and Dorothy L. Sayers also initiated studies of the Sherlock Holmes stories (referred to as the "canon") satirizing the methodologies used by the "Higher Critics" of scripture. Excerpts from Knox's "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes" (pdf):
IF there is anything pleasant in life, it is doing what we aren't meant to do. If there is anything pleasant in criticism, it is finding out what we aren't meant to find out. It is the method by which we treat as significant what the author did not mean to be significant, by which we single out as essential what the author regarded as incidental. Thus, if one brings out a book on turnips, the modern scholar tries to discover from it whether the author was on good terms with his wife; if a poet writes on buttercups, every word he says may be used as evidence against him at an inquest of his views on a future existence. On this fascinating principle we delight to extort economic evidence from Aristophanes, because Aristophanes knew nothing of economics; we try to extract cryptograms from Shakespeare, because we are inwardly certain that Shakespeare never put them there; we sift and winnow the Gospel of S. Luke, in order to produce a Synoptic problem, because S. Luke, poor man, never knew the Synoptic problem to exist. ....
.... Any studies in Sherlock Holmes must be, first and foremost, studies in Dr. Watson. Let us treat at once of the literary and bibliographical aspect of the question. First, as to authenticity. There are several grave inconsistencies in the Holmes cycle. For example, The Study in Scarlet and The Reminiscences are from the hand of John H. Watson, M.D., but in the story of The Man with the Twisted Lip, Mrs. Watson addresses her husband as James. " Nihil aliud hiclatet," says, the great Sauwosch, "nisi redactor ignorantissimus." Yet this error gave the original impetus to Backnecke's theory of the deutero-Watson, to whom he assigns The Study in Scarlet, The Gloria Scott, and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. He leaves to the proto-Watson the rest of the Memoirs, the Adventures, The Sign of Four, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. He disputed The Study in Scarlet on other grounds, the statement in it for example that Holmes's knowledge of literature and philosophy was nil, whereas it is clear that the true Holmes was a man of wide reading and deep thought. We shall deal with this in its proper place. The Gloria Scott is condemned by Backnecke partly on the ground of the statement that Holmes was only up for two years at College, while he speaks in The Musgrave Ritual of  "my last years" at the University, which Backnecke supposes prove that the two stories do not come from the same hand.
The Gloria Scott further represents Percy Trevor's bulldog as having bitten Holmes on his way down to Chapel, which is clearly untrue, since dogs are not allowed within the gates at either University. ....
.... In The Final Problem, the police secure "the whole gang with the exception of Moriarty." In The Story of the Empty House we hear that they failed to, incriminate Colonel Moran. Professor Moriarty, in The Return, is called Professor James Moriarty, whereas we know from The Final Problem that James was really the name of his military brother, who survived him.... And, worst of all, the dummy in the Baker Street window is draped in the old mouse-coloured dressing-gown! As if we had forgotten that it was in a blue dressing-gown that Holmes smoked an ounce of shag tobacco at a sitting, while he unraveled the dark complication of The Man with the Twisted Lip! ....
Applying similar methods Rex Stout wondered whether "Watson was a Woman?" (pdf). (And in television's Elementary he/she is.)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Agreeing to disagree

Delivered today: Controversy of the Ages: Why Christians Should Not Divide Over the Age of the Earth. This should be interesting. The debate over the age of the Earth is one I have avoided. If raised by a non-Christian it is typically a diversion from more important questions. If discussed among Christians, heat rather than light is very likely. In neither case is the discussion apt to be profitable. From the description on the book cover:
Few topics have generated as much heat amongst evangelicals as the age of the earth and the doctrine of creation. Three camps have emerged to offer solutions: young-earth creationists (Answers in Genesis), old-earth creationists (Reasons to Believe), and evolutionary creationists (BioLogos).

Controversy of the Ages carefully analyzes the debate by giving it perspective. Rather than offering arguments for or against a particular viewpoint on the age of the earth, the authors take a step back in order to put the debate in historical and theological context. The authors demonstrate from the history of theology and science controversy that believers are entitled to differ over this issue while still taking a stand against theistic evolution. But by carefully and constructively breaking down the controversy bit by bit, they show why the age issue is the wrong place to draw a line in the sand.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ignorance is vacuity

Samuel Johnson:
Knowledge is certainly one of the means of pleasure, as is confessed by the natural desire every mind feels of increasing its ideas. Ignorance is mere privation, by which nothing can be produced; it is a vacuity in which the soul sits motionless and torpid for want of attraction; and, without knowing why, we always rejoice when we learn, and grieve when we forget, I am therefore inclined to conclude, that if nothing counteracts the natural consequences of learning, we grow more happy as our minds take a wider range.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Book of Common Worship (1906)

Our small church group has several worship leaders. I'm one of them. Each of us takes a turn leading worship a month at a time. Having that responsibility, over time I've accumulated a collection of hymnbooks and other sources of worship material. My most recent acquisition arrived today in the mail: The Book of Common Worship: For Voluntary Use in the Churches (1906). It's a facsimile reprint of the original edition from the Presbyterian Board of Publication. The same can be downloaded, free, in several electronic formats, from The Princeton Theological Library here.

Wikipedia describes the book's origin:
The book was the result of overtures from the Synod of New York and the Presbytery of Denver. Henry Van Dyke was the chairperson of the committee charged with the publication of the book.

The book relied heavily on the liturgical reforms of the Church of Scotland and incorporated much of the liturgical tradition from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. It included liturgies for morning and evening worship services as well as ancient forms of Eucharistic prayers based on Eastern Orthodox liturgies. Prayers and texts were written for festivals and seasons of the Liturgical Year, which at the time of publication was not universally accepted in the Presbytery. Various orders were written for Confirmation, Ordination, and other ordinances. For the first time, "A Treasury of Prayers," a collection of ancient and contemporary prayers, was included. The prayers were drawn not only from within the Reformed tradition but also from within the Church catholic. One such example was the use of the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom, a remarkable departure from the Reformed principles and an intense look into the pre-denominational past. Finally, the book included an extensive selection from Psalms and Canticles; the latter's titles were given in Latin (Magnificat; Nunc Dimittis, Te Deum laudamus etc.), a significant departure from the Reformed tradition. ....
The book was rather controversial among Presbyterians at the time.

The "Treasury of Prayers" is almost sixty pages long. One page:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dogma matters

A reference at a site I visit inspired me to pull down Dorothy L. Sayers' collection of essays, Creed or Chaos (1949), and turn to the title essay (c. 1940), an essay that has continuing relevance. Sayers:
.... There is a great difference between believing a thing to be right and not doing it, on the one hand, and, on the other, energetically practising evil in the firm conviction that it is good. In theological language, the one is mortal sin, which is bad enough; the other is the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is without forgiveness simply and solely because the sinner has not the remotest idea that he is sinning at all. So long as we are aware that we are wicked, we are not corrupt beyond all hope. Our present dissatisfaction with ourselves is a good sign. We have only to be careful that we do not get too disheartened and abashed to do anything about it all. ....

The thing I am here to say to you is this: that it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practise it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ. If you think I am exaggerating, ask the Army chaplains. ....

It is not true at all that dogma is "hopelessly irrelevant" to the life and thought of the average man. What is true is that ministers of the Christian religion often assert that it is, present it for consideration as though it were, and, in fact, by their faulty exposition of it make it so. The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls. If Christ was only man, then He is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life. It is, in the strictest sense, necessary to the salvation of relevance that a man should believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless he believes rightly, there is not the faintest reason why he should believe at all. And in that case, it is wholly irrelevant to chatter about "Christian principles." ....
A pdf with longer excerpts from the essay can be found here.

Dorothy L. Sayers, "Creed or Chaos" in Creed or Chaos, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1949, pp. 25-45.

Friday, May 5, 2017

"Hear what the Lord has done for me."

Once again, from The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse (1981):

Exhortation to Prayer
What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there?
While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel's side;
But when through weariness they fail'd,
That moment Amalek prevail'd.
Prayer makes the darken'd cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.
Have you no words? Ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creature's ear
With the sad tale of all your care.
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian's armour bright;
And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent
To heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be,
"Hear what the Lord has done for me."
William Cowper (1731-1800)

I particularly enjoy the last two verses.

"We have erred and strayed from Thy ways..."

.... Confession is inherent to the Christian life. We approach the Lord as sinners who are loved and forgiven as his children. That’s simply who we are, according to the Christian gospel. If we neglect either of these truths, our Christian life is going to get distorted pretty quickly—so we want to remember both when we gather as church.

Here are four reasons why having a corporate confession matters:

1. It is worship that the Lord delights in
.... Every church is going to say that it worships God when it gathers. But we tend to associate worship with the more upbeat moments of the gathering—singing, inspiring preaching, etc. Yet one thing that honors the Lord and worships him rightly is humble confession; a contrite spirit. He looks in favor upon those who come before him and say, “We’re truly sorry and repentant.” ....

2. It is the shape of Christian living

The whole Christian life is one of repentance and faith. Repentance should deepen our delight in the gospel. Without it, our thanks for the cross is a vague pleasure in someone being kind to us. When we are penitent confessors we are acknowledging our deep need for Jesus. ....

3. It prevents self-righteousness

Corporate confession is a great leveler. It’s something every person in church does and so we’re declaring that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God and all of us need to come for forgiveness. A corporate confession prevents our “inner Pharisee” from looking around the room and saying: “God, I thank you that I’m not like…”

The corporate confession is a reminder that we need to be gracious to one another. Some of us hide our sin pretty well. But we all still have it. ....

4. The Bible models it

There are some obvious moments in the Bible when the people of God gather and express their collective guilt:
“The Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads … They stood in their places and confessed their sins.” (Nehemiah 9:1)
Then there a number of Psalms which were personal confession that have been turned into corporate songs to be sung when believers gather:
“For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)

“You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 69:5)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

All true delight

I've been browsing in The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse (1981) and came across this:
'To Music bent is my retired Mind'
To Music bent is my retired mind.
And fain would I some song of pleasure sing,
But in vain joys no comfort now I find;
From heavenly thoughts all true delight doth spring.
Thy power, O God, thy mercies, to record,
Will sweeten every note and every word.
All earthly pomp or beauty to express
Is but to carve in snow, on waves to write.
Celestial things, though men conceive them less,
Yet fullest are they in themselves of light;
Such beams they yield as know no means to die,
Such heat they cast as lifts the Spirit high.
Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Adolescent insouciance

From an interesting review essay about Roger Scruton:
.... In his account in Gentle Regrets of how he became a conservative, Scruton writes that “Burke summarized all my instinctive doubts about the cry for liberation, all my hesitations about progress and about the unscrupulous belief in the future that has dominated and (in my view) perverted modern politics.” Scruton sided with Plato and Burke in defending a “form of politics that would also be a form of nurture—‘care of the soul,’” a care that would not forget absent generations. He had no time of day for “adolescent insouciance, a throwing away of all customs, institutions and achievements, for the sake of a momentary exultation which could have no lasting sense save anarchy.” ....

.... Scruton’s philosophy is profoundly anti-totalitarian, opposed as it is to every form of scientism, reductionism, and contempt for the human person. Scruton has always defended three great “transcendentals”—the person, freedom, and the sacred. These are at the core of his metaphysical conservatism. Twentieth-century totalitarianism can be understood as a frontal assault on the bodies and souls of human beings—and of the three great transcendentals that give substance to human dignity. ....

...Scruton saw in ideological revolution the self-deification of man through the positing of an “ideal community” that negated the existing order of things. “The worship of an idol”—self-deified man—“becomes a worship of nothing,” the triumph of pure negation. Only the restoration of the claims of a transcendental God can free humanity from a potent and destructive nothingness. ....

.... Religion, unlike scientism, can do justice to the consciousness, freedom, and moral accountability inherent in the human person. In recent years, Scruton has concluded that God is not dead but is “waiting for us to make room for him” .... In Conversations, Scruton calls the Incarnation, the death of a mediating God on behalf of sinful man, a “profound thing” since God himself reconciles us to our own deaths. He also writes movingly about the penitence and forgiveness at the heart of the Christian dispensation. ....

...Dooley asks Scruton if he is hopeful “about the cause of conservatism generally.” Scruton responds that he is not. Yet he adds that the other side, the academic and cultural Left, has nothing to offer except “the repudiation of this feature of our inheritance, now of that.” Scruton ends on an elevating note. Despite everything, we must hold on to what we “know and love.” We must be practitioners of the Platonic “care of the soul” and upholders of the great and primordial Burkean “contract” that connects the living, the dead, and the yet to be born. Above all, we must be sensitive to the “glimmers of transcendence” that emanate from “the edge of things.” ....

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day

Before politics took over the day...

We've been a-rambling all this night,
And sometime of this day;
And now returning back again
We bring a branch of May.
The heavenly gates are open wide,
Our paths are beaten plain;
And if a man be not too far gone,
He may return again.
A branch of May we bring you here,
And at your door it stands;
It is a sprout well budded out,
The work of the Lord's hands.
So dear, so dear as Christ loved us,
And for our sins was slain,
Christ bids us turn from wickedness
Back to the Lord again.
The hedges and trees they are so green,
As green as any leek;
Our Heavenly Father, He watered them   
With His heavenly dew so sweet.
The moon shines bright, the stars give a light,
A little before it is day,
So God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a joyful May.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fresh courage take

The performance above omits the fifth verse below.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His gracious will.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
William Cowper, 1774

Monday, April 24, 2017

Unworthy lives

"60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering
from a hereditary defect costs the People's
community during his lifetime.
Fellow citizen, that is your money too."
.... The Holocaust—the Shoah—did not begin with the mass killing of Jews or other ethnic or religious minorities, or even Hitler’s political opponents. It began with the killing of the handicapped and infirm. They were, according to Nazi ideology, “useless eaters,” “parasites,” lebensunwertes leben (“lives unworthy of life”). It is important to remember that this eugenic doctrine did not originate with the Nazis. It began with polite, urbane, well-educated, sophisticated people who saw “social hygiene” via, among other methods, euthanasia, as representing progress and modernity. They wanted to ditch the old Judaeo-Christian belief in the sanctity of all human life and replace it with what they regarded as a more advanced and rational philosophy.

This was the view articulated by, for example, noted legal scholar Karl Binding and psychiatrist Alfred Hoche in their treatise Permitting the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life, published in 1920. Binding and Hoche were not Nazis, and when they were writing their book the Nazi party didn’t even exist. In a few years, however, Hitler and the Nazis would adopt their ideas about “social hygiene” (mixing in racialist ideology and nostalgia for a mythical golden age of Teutonic paganism) and carry out the euthanasia program with a remorseless, pitiless fervor. Thus, began what became the Shoah—the murder of six million Jews, two to three million Russians, two million ethnic Poles, and nearly countless other so-called “undesirables.”

Yes, let us truly say, from our hearts and with conviction: “Never again.”

Friday, April 21, 2017

Another fan

Today John Mark Reynolds posted about several authors, "They were almost great...Five Remarkable Writers." One of those falling just short of his five was R. Austin Freeman.
R. Austin Freeman
I don’t know many people who read the Dr. Thorndyke stories outside of detective book junkies. They are odd in that they start with the “whodunit” and then reveal the how he done it. ....
I love the Freeman books and as I thin out my library they will not be among those that go. From previous posts on this site:

Many of Freeman's stories are "inverted" detective tales where you are told the story of the crime from the perpetrator's point of view including, of course, all the steps taken to conceal what he has done, and then observe the detective's inexorable discovery of the guilty. Evans says that Freeman was one of T.S. Eliot's favorite detective novelists, better than Christie. Evans on Freeman:
Although Freeman’s first detective novel, The Red Thumb Mark, appeared in 1907, well before the beginning of the Golden Age, Freeman, a contemporary of Arthur Conan Doyle, continued writing mystery fiction until the year before his death in 1943. Between 1922 and 1938, Freeman published fifteen detective novels and three collections of detective short stories, all but one detailing exploits of his then-famous detective (and the greatest rival of Sherlock Holmes), medical jurist Dr. John Thorndyke. Two more Thorndyke novels appeared in 1940 and 1942, outside the proper span of the Golden Age.

Freeman’s Thorndyke tales brought science and forensic medicine into the detective fiction genre in a masterful way. Compared to Thorndyke, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is far less credible on scientific matters. ....

Though some of Freeman’s best works, such as The Eye of Osiris (1911) and the short-story collections John Thorndyke’s Cases (1909) and The Singing Bone (1912), were published before the Golden Age began, Freeman produced many superb Golden Age works, including the three later short story collections Dr. Thorndyke’s Casebook (1923), The Puzzle Lock (1925), and The Magic Casket (1927) and novels such as The Cat’s Eye (1923), The Shadow of the Wolf (1925), As a Thief in the Night (1928), Mr. Pottermack's Oversight (1930), The Penrose Mystery (1936), and The Stoneware Monkey (1938).

Freeman’s story collection The Singing Bone has been credited with creating the inverted mystery, and the later novels Wolf and Oversight are fine examples of that form. [more]
I don't possess all of those books, but of those I do own Mr. Pottermack's Oversight is a favorite, as are a couple he doesn't mention, A Silent Witness [1929] and For the Defense: Dr. Thorndyke [1934].


Most of these books, by R. Austin Freeman, were what was known as an "inverted" detective story: the book started with the crime, from the criminal's point of view, and then you observed Dr. Thorndyke, as he inexorably moved toward discovering the criminal [although not always exposing him]. I'm reading Mr. Pottermack's Oversight, first published in 1930, and came across the following in the text, reminding me that plot is not the only reason I find Freeman so enjoyable:
Temperamentally, Dr. John Thorndyke presented a peculiarity which, at the first glance, seemed to involve a contradiction. He was an eminently friendly man; courteous, kindly and even genial in his intercourse with his fellow creatures. Nor was his suave, amicable manner in any way artificial or consciously assumed. To every man his attitude of mind was instinctively friendly; and if he did not suffer fools gladly, he could, on occasion endure them with almost inexhaustible patience.

And yet, with all his pleasant exterior and his really kindly nature, he was at heart a confirmed solitary. Of all company, his own thoughts were to him the most acceptable. After all, his case was not singular. To every intellectual man, solitude is not only a necessity, it is the condition to which his mental qualities are subject; and the man who cannot endure his own sole society has usually excellent reasons for his objection to it. (p. 105)
Many of the Freeman books are now in the public domain and available for download free as ebooks. One source.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"By their fruits..."

.... Whatever your views on origins and evolution, we can hopefully all agree that, at present, we give far too much honor to the British thinker who justified genocide.

Darwin didn’t hide his view that his evolutionary thinking applied to human races as well as to animal species. The full title of his seminal 1859 book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. He followed up more explicitly in The Descent of Man, where he spelled out his racial theory:
The Western nations of so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization.... The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.
Thankfully, most British people today are embarrassed by the racist rhetoric that under girded the late-Victorian British Empire. What’s astonishing is how little they understand that Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution provided the doctrine behind its white supremacism. Whereas the British Empire of the early 19th century had been dominated by Christian reformers such as William Wilberforce, who sold slave badges that proclaimed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”, Darwin’s writings converted an empire with a conscience into an empire with a scientific philosophy. Four years after Darwin published The Origin of Species, James Hunt turned it into a justification for slavery. In his 1863 paper, “On the Negro’s Place in Nature,” he asserted: “Our Bristol and Liverpool merchants, perhaps, helped to benefit the race when they transported some of them to America.”

Christian reformers had spent decades in the early 19th century teaching Britain to view non-European races as their equals before God. In a matter of years, Darwin swept not only God off the table, but also the value of people of every race with him. ....

.... When The Melbourne Review used Darwin’s teachings to justify the genocide of indigenous Australians in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. When the Australian newspaper argued that “the inexorable law of natural selection [justifies] exterminating the inferior Australian and Maori races”—that “the world is better for it” since failure to do so would be “promoting the non-survival of the fittest, protecting the propagation of the imprudent, the diseased, the defective, and the criminal”—it was Christian missionaries who raised an outcry on behalf of this forgotten genocide. Darwin simply commented, “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilized over a savage race.” .... [more]