Monday, January 18, 2010

Doing good work

This is a great day for an Inklings fan — two blogs bring me to two good essays I haven't read for a long time.

Lydia McGrew sends me searching online for a great C.S. Lewis essay from 1959: "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in which he questions the judgment of Bultmann, among others:
.... First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. [....]

[Bultmann] "The personality of Jesus has no importance for the kerygma either of Paul or of John ... Indeed the tradition of the earliest Church did not even unconsciously preserve a picture of his personality. Every attempt to reconstruct one remains a play of subjective imagination."

So there is no personality of Our Lord presented in the New Testament. Through what strange process has this learned German gone in order to make himself blind to what all men except him see? What evidence have we that he would recognize a personality if it were there? For it is Bultmann contra mundum. If anything whatever is common to all believers, and even to many unbelievers, it is the sense that in the Gospels they have met a personality. .... [more]
And then, at Justin Taylor's blog, there is a link to an essay by a friend of Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, "Why Work?".
[....] 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 center 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 so ugly, so pretentious, so tawdry and twaddling, so insincere and insipid, so bad as to shock and horrify any decent draftsman.

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.

Let the Church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade – not outside it. .... [more]
Lewis on Biblical Criticism: Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism, songlight for dawn: ‘Why Work?’ by Dorothy L. Sayers