Sunday, April 29, 2012

"But like a child at home"

The hymn site, Conjubilant with Song, notes that:
...[W]e're back again to Good Shepherd Sunday, celebrated in many churches on the Fourth Sunday of Easter. If it was observed in your church, you undoubtedly heard Psalm 23, perhaps in more than one format or setting. It's certainly the most paraphrased psalm I've presented here, and we have not run out of them yet! ....
In our worship yesterday the pastor chose my favorite paraphrase of the 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,
And 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.
We sang the hymn to this tune, here performed by the Choir of Washington National Cathedral


Conjubilant with Song: I Drink From Their Plenty, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

The 50 best books for children?

Yesterday I had a conversation before church with a grandparent about a very young grandson who has become an enthusiastic reader. A love of reading was one of the best gifts my parents gave me and, I'm convinced, is one of the best gifts any parent can give any child and so I am somewhat of an enthusiast on the topic. Some doubt was expressed about the quality of the books the grandchild was reading and so the subject turned to where good books could be found. I've posted before linking to lists of books for various age levels but those links seem to no longer be good. This morning I discovered a couple of other sites with what seemed to me pretty good recommendations.

The first list was compiled in answer to a British grandparent: "My granddaughter is only a few months old, but I would appreciate both guidance in buying books for children and a possible hit list of 50 books to own before you’re five.” In response the Telegraph columnist, noting that the list would have been somewhat different for a boy, provides her recommendations for the "top 50 books for children":
.... The list is divided into three broad sweeps: illustrated stories to read to a toddler – though many of these are likely to continue to be favourites well into primary school; novels for, broadly, eight- to 12-year-olds – or to read to a slightly younger child; and reference books and collections. .... [more]
That list can be found here: "Ask Lorna: top 50 books for children."

The second site — "The Art of Manliness" —  offers the "50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men." The compiler had a somewhat older age group in mind than the Telegraph compilation. He is particularly concerned to persuade boys to read:
.... For several decades now, boys have scored lower on reading assessment tests than girls. Boys also take longer to learn to read than girls, are less likely to actually read and to value reading, and are more likely to label themselves as “non-readers” (up to 50% of high school age boys consider themselves as such). Non-reading boys do poorer academically and end up as non-reading men....

...[W]e had boys about the ages of 9-15 in mind when we made this list, I’ve always considered the distinction between adult and young adult literature to be an unfortunate and artificial one. Putting together this list I remembered just how good these books are, and I can’t wait to read them again as a man. Whether you’re 12 or 52, grab one of these books and a bag of cookies and head out to the treehouse.
The site provides five pages with descriptions of, and order links to Amazon for, the "50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men".

Ask Lorna: top 50 books for children - Telegraph, 50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men | The Art of Manliness

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Frustrated with the loss of the sacred"

At Modern Reformation Shane Rosenthal describes his unsatisfying journey through a variety of Evangelical churches. His family now worships with an Orthodox Presbyterian congregation, but they make occasional excursions elsewhere:
...[M]y wife and I decided some time ago to regularly introduce our four children to other kinds of churches so they know what's going on outside their own walls. We have visited all kinds of places: Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and various evangelical megachurches. We do this about once a year, and it always makes for great discussion afterwards. On one occasion I asked, "So, what was the first thing you noticed when you walked into the church?" "Well," replied one of our kids, "it sorta reminded me of a movie theatre." "It was loud," replied another. I still find both of these answers fascinating and provocative.

Last year we visited a church that had three huge mega-screens featuring music videos and advertisements for various things before the service began. Along the right side and back of this expansive worship center people were selling CDs, books, T-shirts, and cappuccino, all in the same room. The pastor was absent and did all of his announcements via video screen. The visiting preacher he introduced told numerous jokes and actually preached a sermon, not on a particular text of the Bible but on the subject of his latest book. And at the end of his message, he actually pleaded with us to "go to the back and take a look at the book!" Yep, it was a book tour.

When the message was over, we were forced to watch a fifteen-minute professionally produced infomercial about the virtues of tithing. "There was one month when we stopped giving to the church for one reason or the other," the woman on screen was saying, "and it was right around that time when the transmission on our truck gave out." She went on to explain that God does not exactly punish us for failing to tithe, but that we do step out of his "circle of protection" when we go against his will. This video was followed up by, you guessed it, the offering basket.

We did recognize the concluding hymn. Though it was set to a contemporary beat that caused many to stand up and sway (in fact, the same rhythmic motion that's the origin of the phrase "rock 'n roll"), we soon realized they were singing "Amazing Grace." Unfortunately, after the first verse, the congregation began repeating the words "Praise God" over and over in a kind of mantra, yet still to the tune of Newton's famous hymn. I guess the original hymn was simply too wordy.

Later that evening our family discussed the trivialization of God that we witnessed there, the lack of depth, the absence of the sacraments, and the commercialization of worship. More importantly, we noticed an alarming chumminess with which these people approached God. Sin wasn't mentioned nor our need for a mediator. Rather, Jesus, if he was presented at all, was there to help us get through life's difficulties and challenges: "He can touch your life right now; all you have to do is ask him and he'll be there for you."

After describing some of my experiences at this particular megachurch on the White Horse Blog, one commenter by the name of Jim posted the following response:
I've seen things similar to this in the evangelical world for years. That's why I started attending Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican services. I'm still trying to decide which denomination I will join. In these churches, I feel more of a reverence toward God. Although my theology is still closest to Billy Graham, I'm sick and tired of the evangelical world treating Jesus like a high school buddy that one would goof off and watch football with...with a few Bud Lights handy.
Jim's response is not unusual. Though his theology is evangelical, he has become so frustrated with the loss of the sacred that he has begun looking elsewhere, including the world of Catholicism. I'm a convinced Protestant who is passionate about salvation by grace alone, through faith alone on account of the work of Christ alone. And for various theological reasons, I would not encourage unsatisfied evangelicals to wander into Roman territory. Nevertheless, I will be the first to admit that many Catholic churches are closer to the kingdom than the type of megachurch I described. .... [more]
Modern Reformation - Abandoning Evangelicalism?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Magical thinking

From a Christianity Today interview with Eric Bargerhuff, the author of The Most Misused Verses in the Bible:
Are there specific categories of verses that evangelicals tend to misinterpret?

Our temptation is to interpret the promises of God materially and temporally instead of spiritually and eternally. We Americans have bought into a materialistic, right-now mindset, and so we're tempted to pull verses out of context to fit that mindset. We need to understand that God's greatest desire is to glorify his name. Too often, we interpret God's promises in a way that is appealing to our sinful side. We often grab things out of Scripture and try to use them for our own benefit, instead of taking the necessary steps to submit to Scripture, to be humbled by it.

You critique prayers that uncritically expect God to grant us, well, anything. Like John 14:13: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

God is not a genie in a bottle. Yes, he has a good, pleasing, and perfect will. But this doesn't mean we should pray for whatever we want. We are sinful people and don't even know what's best for us, as the Book of Romans says. Sometimes we pray with wrong motives. Praying random prayers that are self-centered is not God-honoring. We should seek his will when we pray. ....

Why is Jeremiah 29:11-13 ("'For I know the plans I have for you …'") commonly misinterpreted?

Most people overlook the context of the verse because it speaks to what they want to hear for their life. This was a corporate promise given to the nation of Israel, to a generation that came out of 70 years of captivity in Babylon. We think through an Americanized filter based on our preconceived notions of what blessing is. But God's promises are spiritual promises, not promises of instant gratification. Though God does bless us in many ways, he has not promised us our best life now. This world is not our home, and we should long for a better country. ....
'God Is Not a Genie in a Bottle': Ways We Misuse the Bible | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Friday, April 20, 2012

"I see my light come shining"

Danko, Manuel, and now Levon Helm. RIP. Charles P. Pierce at Esquire on Levon Helm and The Band:
.... Then, Capitol released Music from Big Pink. It didn't sound like anything on the radio. It didn't sound like anything on earth. The lyrics were dense and allusive, as dense as Dylan's, but drawn from a different place, a bleached-out roadhouse in Fort Smith, not a folk club in the Village, the kind of place where, as Levon once said, you had to puke twice and show them your knife before you could get in. You could hear all kinds of things in the music — white soul, field hollers, the sound a carnival makes on the outskirts of town when the sun drops behind the horizon and all the lights come up. It might have been recorded in 1938 for all anyone really knew. In his legendary review in Rolling Stone, Al Kooper, no stranger to musical eccentricity his own self, tried to parse out all the influences he heard on the record:
I hear the Beach Boys, the Coasters, Hank Williams, the Association, the Swan Silvertones as well as obviously Dylan and the Beatles. What a varied bunch of influences. I love all the music created by the above people and a montage of these forms (bigpink) boggles the mind. But it's also something else. It's that good old, intangible, can't-put-your-finger-on-it "White Soul." Not so much a white cat imitating a spade, but something else that reaches you on a non-Negro level like church music or country music or Jewish music or Dylan. The singing is so honest and unaffected, I can't see how anyone could find it offensive (as in "white people can't pull this kind of thing off".)
The guitar darted in and out between the keyboards, which were all a tangle of juke joint and high Mass. The drums had a throb to them, like a vagabond's last heartbeat. And the voices sounded like a choir put together in the the toughest joint in a lost frontier — the soulful, gulping joy of Rick Danko, and the high, gorgeous soul of Richard Manuel. And Levon, in whose voice we all got our country back again. .... [more]


Levon Helm Was the Real Voice of America, by Charles P. Pierce - Esquire

"As men who must give an account"

How big is your church? Mark Dever, speaking in Brisbane, Australia:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The first link

"To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong
to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public
affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed
towards a love to our country, and to mankind."
Edmund Burke

Gertrude Himmelfarb on the perilous state of civil society as an alternative to both radical individualism and statism:
....Individuals are increasingly removed from the traditional networks of “civic engagement”—family, friends, neighbors, professional organizations, and other associations. This erosion of civil society results in a decline of “social capital,” which bodes ill for democracy at home and for democratization abroad. ....

In the new technological as well as global world, the world of television and the Internet—of surfing, blogging, tweeting, texting, linking, and Facebooking—civil society is increasingly tenuous. People are not so much speaking to each other as speaking across each other, befriending each other in such quantities as to belie the very idea of friendship, violating the confidences of acquaintances and any presumption of privacy, using language that makes a mockery of what used to be called civic discourse.  ....

Religion is surely a valuable prop of civil society, creating and sustaining a variety of civic as well as religious institutions. But here too there has been significant erosion. Traditional denominational, neighborhood, family-centered churches are being threatened by two rivals: megachurches, consisting of thousands of people brought together by a single charismatic preacher, which do not survive the death of the preacher; and small, transient, nondenominational churches, some professing to be “spiritual” rather than religious, which are unstable in doctrine as in membership. The effect of both is to undermine the commitment of congregants and the effectiveness of the churches themselves, making religion a less effectual force in civil society.

Even more ominous is the condition of the family. The most fundamental component of civil society, it has also become the most vulnerable. Civil society is often identified (thanks largely to Tocqueville) with “voluntary associations.” But the traditional family is not, or at least did not used to be, a voluntary association. Indeed, it is important precisely because it is not voluntary, performing the natural, elemental, even biological functions of bearing and rearing children. Today, as a result of divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, single-parent families, and single-sex parenting, the family has become, in a sense, voluntarized. We are sometimes assured that these “alternative lifestyles” are merely variations on the old, serving the same purposes as the “nuclear” or “bourgeois” family. In fact, these families—“broken families,” like “broken windows”—are often literally “dysfunctional,” incapable of performing the natural functions that define the family. .... [more]

Reading fiction

I don't particularly care that there was no Pulitzer for fiction this year [or any year]. But in bemoaning that fact Ann Patchett writes something with which I very much agree:
.... Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps. ....
Thanks to Althouse for the reference.

And the Winner of the Pulitzer Isn’t - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Age of the Ribbon

Pamela Haag, in "Death by Treacle," writes about false intimacy and ersatz emotionalism in our times. A few excerpts from an article very much worth reading in its entirety:
....On some days you’ll see makeshift shrines for victims of car accidents or violence by the side of the road, placed next to a mangled guardrail or wrapped around a lamppost. As more people hear of the tragedy, teddy bears, flowers, and notes accumulate. Princess Diana’s was the biggest of such shrines, a mountain of hundreds of thousands of plastic-sheathed bouquets outside her residence. Queen Elizabeth resisted the presumptuous momentum of all the grief but finally relented and went to inspect the flower shrine and its handwritten messages, a concession to sentiment depicted in the movie The Queen. Maybe I was the only one in the theater who thought the Queen was right; I rooted for her propriety over Tony Blair’s dubious advice that she drag the monarchy into the modern age by publicly displaying a sentiment she probably didn’t feel. The mourners didn’t even know Diana, the queen reasoned by an obsolete logic of restrained stoicism, and the palace flag didn’t fly at half-mast even for more illustrious figures. But she caved in the end. We most always do.

Sentiment surfaces fast and runs hot in public life, and it compels our attention. On good days I dimly register this makeshift iconography of people’s sorrows, losses, and challenges. Some of them have been my own, too, but I don’t have ribbons. On my dark days I believe that pink ribbons and 5K runs and temporary shrines and teddy bears and emails exclamation-pointed into a frenzy—the sentimental public culture—is malicious to civil society and impedes in one elegant motion our capacities for deliberation in public life and intimacy in private life. On the days I’m feeling melodramatic I suspect that we are in the grips of death by treacle. ....

.... It may even be the case, ironically, that the proliferation of a cloying, saccharine culture has contributed to a less forgiving, meaner attitude in public life. After all, the flip side of a sentimental public culture of weepy confession, fast if not fraudulent empathy for victims, and the infusion of emotion into public discourse is that it establishes precedent for the public, political currency of all the darker emotions on the spectrum of sentiment: anger, fury, and hatred. When emotions of one, gentle kind are privileged in public culture and invited into political discourse, then emotions of another kind can slide in just as easily and gain stature and political relevance, too. ....

.... Cultural historian Warren Susman charted the shift from an American culture of character in the 19th century to a culture of personality in the 20th century. The culture of character valued personal virtues like hard work, achievement, and duty; the culture of personality revered those who were fascinating, stunning, attractive, magnetic, and forceful. .... [more]
The American Scholar: Death by Treacle - Pamela Haag

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"I've walked myself into my best thoughts."

I live in the middle of a medium sized city which makes it easy for me to walk just about everywhere I need to go. And I also walk for exercise, although not enough. It does me good. It also provides time away from everything else — including the computer and every other kind of electronic entertainment — and thus the opportunity to reflect. My behavior is atypical for a variety of reasons including the fact that relatively few Americans live where walking is convenient. "Americans Do Not Walk The Walk, And That's A Growing Problem":
"Americans now walk the least of any industrialized nation in the world," says writer Tom Vanderbilt. To find out why that is, Vanderbilt has been exploring how towns are built, how Americans view walking — and what might be done to get them moving around on their own two feet. ....

"We've engineered walking out of our existence and everyday life," Vanderbilt says. "I even tried to examine the word 'pedestrian,' and it's always had sort of this negative connotation — that it was always better to be on a horse or something, if you could manage it."

In a series of stories for Slate about "The Crisis in American Walking," Vanderbilt writes about pedestrian life in America, from "sidewalk science" to possible ways to make the U.S. less car-centric. And he finds that what started as a push for convenience has become a difficult problem, as many parts of the country are now designed specifically for cars, not pedestrians.

And while Americans have cut down on walking, they've been putting on some pounds. ....

"Walking is really as natural as breathing," Vanderbilt says. "We're all born pedestrians."

Talking with Steve, Vanderbilt cites a thought on walking from philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who said, "I've walked myself into my best thoughts."

"I think we've all had that experience, of just taking a walk to clear your head. And it lowers your stress," Vanderbilt says — then adds, "hopefully, it lowers your stress. Some places we have to walk in the U.S., it doesn't lower your stress." .... [more]
Kierkegaard:
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.” [Søren Kierkegaard]
Americans Do Not Walk The Walk, And That's A Growing Problem : The Two-Way : NPR

Blue Like Jazz

Haven't seen it. I have been aware that many of those, like me, who have little interest in the usual message-driven "Christian" entertainment, were anticipating it. Eleanor Barkhorn at The Atlantic, in "Why 'Blue Like Jazz' Won't Save Christian Cinema" thinks the film fails to live up to Donald Miller's book in its attempt to portray authentic Christianity.
The promise of an authentic, unsanitized Christian film resonated with people. When Blue Like Jazz ran into budget trouble in fall 2010, it raised $345,992 on Kickstarter—then a record for the crowdfunding site. The 4,000-plus backers believed the movie could offer a still better way: a heartfelt depiction of the Christian life as lived not by a heroic fireman or abortion survivor but a real, flawed human being.

"Most of my movie-going friends are ready for a different representation of their faith beyond what the Christian Movie Establishment is currently serving," Blue Like Jazz director Steve Taylor wrote recently. This film, which was released last week in selected cities, was supposed to change that.

Unfortunately, in its attempt to be a more honest voice of evangelical Christianity, Blue Like Jazz the movie ends up saying barely anything at all. It tries to navigate a middle course between mainstream Hollywood and mainstream evangelical movie-making, and in the process loses everyone. The film doesn't show skeptics anything distinctive about Christianity. And it tells believers not to share what they know, but instead to apologize for it. ....

But more importantly, in a movie that's supposed to depict an authentic walk of faith, it just doesn't feel real. From what I've witnessed—in the Bible, in my own life, and in the lives of those around me—an encounter with God elicits a desire to share the good news, not to say sorry for it. This is something Miller himself seems to understand, or at least he did, at one point. Blue Like Jazz the book does not end with an apology. It ends with an exhortation. "I want you to know Jesus too," Miller writes. That's what knowing Jesus does—it makes you want other people to know him, as well. It's a truth as old as the Bible itself, but it's entirely absent from Blue Like Jazz the movie. Instead of "I want you to know Jesus," we hear, "I want you to apologize for Jesus." It's a message that Hollywood itself could have delivered. [more]
A more positive take on the film: "Why You’re Missing Out If You Don’t Go See Blue Like Jazz"

Why 'Blue Like Jazz' Won't Save Christian Cinema - Eleanor Barkhorn - Entertainment - The Atlantic

Monday, April 16, 2012

Coercive tolerance

Mollie Hemingway, reviewing D.A. Carson's new book, The Intolerance of Tolerance:
...[T]olerance has undergone a change in meaning. What once meant recognizing other people's right to have different beliefs and practices now means accepting the differing views themselves. Vestiges of the old tolerance—conscience protections for medical professionals, religious liberty, and open discussions—are on the way out. ....

"What the new tolerance means," Carson writes, "is that the government must be intolerant of those who do not accept the new definition of tolerance." In this vein, tolerance becomes an absolute good with the power to erode moral and religious distinctives. Or, as the United Nations Declaration of Principles on Tolerance puts it, "Tolerance … involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism." Leave it to the U.N. to come up with a dogmatic and absolutist rejection of dogma and absolutism!

Take, for example, the growing phenomenon of campus policies requiring student organizations to allow practicing homosexuals to be leaders. Efforts to enforce inclusion result in excluding groups that, as a matter of conscience, can't submit to the secular doctrine. Complex moral issues can't be discussed when everything is mapped on the tolerant/intolerant axis. ....
Tolerance—Or Else: Coercive Attempts to Impose Secular Beliefs | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We should be kind

The Mower
Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
Philip Larkin - The Mower

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Nearer My God, to Thee"

This evening I intend to watch the restored version of A Night to Remember [1958], based on the Walter Lord book of the same name and generally considered the most historically accurate of the films on the subject, in fact it is sometimes described as a docudrama. Today — the anniversary of the sinking of the ship — from the BBC, "Five Titanic myths spread by films":
One hundred years ago RMS Titanic raced into an iceberg at almost full speed. Two-and-a-half hours later, it sank to the bottom of the Atlantic with the loss of over 1,500 men, women and children.

It has inspired a host of films, documentaries and conspiracy theories.

The re-release of James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster in 3D is a reminder that many people's knowledge of the events of 14 April 1912 comes not from historical fact, but the silver screen.
Here follow the "five myths."

Although impressed by the CGI recreation of the ship, I intensely disliked the Cameron film [1997] because the actual events and people were, to me, far more interesting and impressive than the ahistorical, romantic, tear-jerker, he produced.

More: an interesting post about the survivors:
...[T]hird class women passengers had a far better chance of surviving (49 percent) than first class males (34 percent). Yes, first and second class women had a much greater chance of survival (97 percent and 86 percent, respectively) than did third class women (49 percent). But the corresponding figures for men were abysmal, even in first class–and, curiously enough, second class men fared even worse than those in third class (8 percent to 13 percent).
More, 4/15: "Faith on the decks of the Titanic" provides information about the band playing "Nearer My God, To Thee" at the end:
.... One of the most dramatic accounts of the final moments came from thirty-four-year-old coal trimmer Thomas Patrick “Paddy” Dillon, who was interviewed by a local newspaper in Plymouth, England, after arriving back on the Red Star Line ship Lapland on April 28. He said he was one of the last to leave the ship and that the poop deck was by then at an angle of around sixty degrees and after a second explosion the bow “seemed to bob up and then break clean off like a piece of carrot.” The musicians had been playing on the deck, he said, but they then slid off the deck along with Captain Smith.

“There was one musician left,” he said. “He was the violinist and was playing the hymn ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee.’ The notes of this music were the last thing I heard before I went off the poop and felt myself going headlong into the icy water with the engines and machinery buzzing in my ears.”

Another survivor interviewed at the same time said: “They began to render hymn tunes and continued to do to the last. While playing ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ the water was washing over their feet, and in a very short time they disappeared beneath the waves.”
BBC News - Five Titanic myths spread by films, Class, Gender, and One Hundred Years After the Titanic | The Weekly Standard, Faith on the decks of the Titanic › A Journey through NYC religions

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Justin Taylor passes along this announcement:
Starting from tomorrow, April 12th, all 1,600 recorded sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones will be available to download, at no cost, to anyone who wants to listen to them! There are no exceptions, so the Ephesians sermons, Romans sermons, etc. will all be available (it will take a few days to make sure that they are all included in the library). All one has to do is join the MLJ Library (membership is free of course) and start to download! Simply go to our newly updated site at http://www.mljtrust.org and click on “MLJ Library”.
By now April 12th has come and the Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons are here, free.

The Biggest Announcement the Martyn-Lloyd Jones Trust Will Ever Make – Justin Taylor

The "nones"

Peter Berger reviews an article from Foreign Affairs about "The Religiously Unaffiliated in America," or those who respond with "none" when questioned about their religion. Berger notes that "33% of young people are religiously unaffiliated, as compared with 12% in the 1970s." The article he is reviewing attributes much of the disaffection to the politicization of religion in the US. Berger thinks it is more complicated than that.
.... Most “nones” have not opted out of religion as such, but have opted out of affiliation with organized religion. Among Christians (the great majority of all survey respondents) there are different reasons for this disaffection. The two authors are very probably correct that, broadly speaking, those who are turned off by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics do so because they don’t like the repressive sexual morality of those churches (the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church has not helped). But the “nones” have also exited from mainline Protestantism, which has been much more accommodating to the liberationist ethic. Here, I think, there has been frustration with what my friend and colleague Thomas Luckmann long ago called “secularization from within”—the stripping away of the transcendent dimensions of the Gospel, and its reduction to conventional good deeds, popular psychotherapy and (mostly left-of-center) political agendas. Put differently: My hypothesis implies that some “nones” are put off by churches that preach a repressive morality, some others by churches whose message is mainly secular.

What then do these people believe? There is very likely a number (in America a relatively small one) of “nones” who are really without religion—agnostics or (even fewer) outright atheists. The latter have been encouraged by the advocates of the so-called “new atheism”—which is not new at all, but rather a reiteration of a tired 19th-century rationalism, pushed by a handful of writers who have been misrepresented as an important cultural movement. .... The bulk of the “nones” probably consist of a mix of two categories of unaffiliated believers—in the words of the British sociologist Grace Davie, people who “believe without belonging”. There are those who have put together an idiosyncratic personal creed, putting together bits and pieces of their own tradition with other components. Robert Wuthnow, the most productive and insightful sociologist of American religion, has called this “patchwork religion”. This includes the kind of people who will say “I am Catholic, but…”, followed by a list of items where they differ from the teachings of the church. The other category are the children—by now, grandchildren—of the counter-culture. They will most often say, “I am spiritual, not religious”. The “spirituality” is typically an expression of what Colin Campbell, another British sociologist, has called “Easternization”—an invasion of Western civilization by beliefs and practices from Asia. A few of these are organized, for instance by the various Buddhist schools. But most are diffused in an informal manner—such as belief in reincarnation or the spiritual continuity between humans and nature, and practices like yoga or martial arts. .... [more]
The Religiously Unaffiliated in America | Religion and Other Curiosities

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tintin

A couple of weeks ago I watched the recent Spielberg/Jackson film of The Adventures of Tintin. It was a good time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I have read none of the books and had no idea how faithful the movie was to them. Fortunately I was accompanied in the viewing by a friend who owns them all and has been reading them for years. He approved of the film. Suzannah, at "In Which I Read Vintage Books," likes the books too [and the movie] and has written a fairly long critical appreciation of them here. Suzannah:
The Adventures of Tintin are the cartoon adventures of an unassuming young man with a ginger tuft of hair, his dog Snowy, and his friend, the irascible old sailor Captain Haddock. Over the course of the 24 books, Tintin stumbles into one adventure, mystery, or treasure-hunt after another, faces every kind of danger, visits every corner of the globe (and even the Moon) and foils dozens of bad guys up to every kind of evil trick. ....
Suzannah has favorites among the two dozen books. If I start reading them, I believe I will follow her recommendations:
The Black Island: Possibly Hergé's homage to Hitchcock and Buchan, this story gets underway when two villainous characters, worried that Tintin may be on their trail, frame him for assault and robbery. Detectives Thompson and Thomson arrest him, but Tintin knows he's innocent and goes after the real culprits—a gang of forgers led by the sinister Dr Muller. This is a great story set in England and Scotland with beautiful scenery, a well-made detective/adventure plot, and a thrilling climax in a ruined and possibly haunted castle on the Black Island off the Scottish coast.

King Ottokar's Sceptre: When Tintin returns a lost briefcase he meets seal collector and sigillographer Professor Alembick, who invites him to travel as his assistant to the fictional Balkan country of Syldavia. At first Tintin isn't interested, but then after a series of brushes with mysterious Syldavians, he realises that something is afoot and joins the Professor for his trip to Syldavia. Tintin soon discovers that there's a plot afoot to force the abdication of the quiet but competent King Muskar XII, but there are traitors everywhere and it won't be so easy to warn the King. This book introduces another notable recurring character—Bianca Castafiore, the buxom and deadly opera star, who will go on to become one of Tintin's most loyal allies.

The Land of Black Gold: Trouble is brewing in the Arabian emirate of Wadesdah, the Emir's son Prince Abdullah vanishes, and war seems imminent. Meanwhile, someone is doctoring the world's petrol supplies. Tintin goes to Arabia to investigate. This book is a great adventure story; my favourite parts include the melodramatic story Tintin's ally Senhor Oliveira da Figueira tells the servants at the villain's house to distract them, and the introduction of the ghastly spoiled brat Abdullah.

The Red Sea Sharks: Tintin and Captain Haddock find themselves up against an old enemy after they begin investigating a shady arms dealer. Their friend Emir Ben Kalish Ezab has been deposed by archenemy Sheik Bab El Ehr, and the bratty Prince Abdullah has been sent to Captain Haddock at Marlinspike hall for safety. Tintin and Captain Haddock decide that Marlinspike Hall is a little too small to hold them and the Arabian Nightmare, so they jet off for war-torn Wadesdah to see what they can do to help.
In Which I Read Vintage Novels: The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CSL in Oxford

click to enlarge

Author, scholar, and theologian C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) in a series of photos taken around Oxford University by famed LIFE Magazine photographer Hans Wild. ....

It was in Oxford that Lewis was educated, taught literature, met J.R.R. Tolkien, converted to Christianity, wrote the Chronicles of Narnia and other classics, drank at pubs, worshiped every Sunday at his local parish church, famously fell in love late in life, and was buried. ....

FDR and Paul Ryan?

FDR apparently envisioned that Social Security would work much like my Wisconsin Retirement System — the contributions made during the working years would be invested and then paid out upon retirement. That's not how Social Security worked out. Robert Samuelson:
When Roosevelt proposed Social Security in 1935, he envisioned a contributory pension plan. Workers' payroll taxes ("contributions") would be saved and used to pay their retirement benefits. Initially, before workers had time to pay into the system, there would be temporary subsidies. But Roosevelt rejected Social Security as a "pay-as-you-go" system that channeled the taxes of today's workers to pay today's retirees. That, he believed, would saddle future generations with huge debts — or higher taxes — as the number of retirees expanded.

Discovering that the original draft proposal wasn't a contributory pension, Roosevelt ordered it rewritten and complained to Frances Perkins, his labor secretary: "This is the same old dole under another name. It is almost dishonest to build up an accumulated deficit for the Congress ... to meet."

But Roosevelt's vision didn't prevail. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Congress gradually switched Social Security to a pay-as-you-go system. Interestingly, a coalition of liberals and conservatives pushed the change. Liberals wanted higher benefits, which — with few retirees then — existing taxes could support. Conservatives disliked the huge surpluses the government would accumulate under a contributory plan. ....

Millions of Americans believe (falsely) that their payroll taxes have been segregated to pay for their benefits and that, therefore, they "earned" these benefits. To reduce them would be to take something that is rightfully theirs. Indeed, Roosevelt — believing he had created a contributory program — said exactly that:
"We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions. ... No damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program."
.... [more]
RealClearPolitics - The Origins of Entitlement

Social Darwinism

The President recently referred to Congressman Paul Ryan's budget as exemplifying "Social Darwinism." Reihan Salam provides an interesting excerpt from an article about the origin of the term, apparently recast by Richard Hofstadter:
At the heart of Hofstadter’s case is the following passage from Spencer’s famous first book, Social Statics (1851): “If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die.”

That certainly sounds rough, but as it turns out, Hofstadter failed to mention the first sentence of Spencer’s next paragraph, which reads, “Of course, in so far as the severity of this process is mitigated by the spontaneous sympathy of men for each other, it is proper that it should be mitigated.” As philosophy professor Roderick Long has remarked, “The upshot of the entire section, then, is that while the operation of natural selection is beneficial, its mitigation by human benevolence is even more beneficial.” This is a far cry from Hofstadter’s summary of the text, which has Spencer advocating that the “unfit…should be eliminated.”

Similarly, Hofstadter repeatedly points to Spencer’s famous phrase, “survival of the fittest,” a line that Charles Darwin added to the fifth edition of Origin of Species. But by fit, Spencer meant something very different from brute force. In his view, human society had evolved from a “militant” state, which was characterized by violence and force, to an “industrial” one, characterized by trade and voluntary cooperation. Thus Spencer the “extreme conservative” supported labor unions (so long as they were voluntary) as a way to mitigate and reform the “harsh and cruel conduct” of employers.

In fact, far from being the proto-eugenicist of Hofstadter’s account, Spencer was an early feminist, advocating the complete legal and social equality of the sexes (and he did so, it’s worth noting, nearly two decades before John Stuart Mill’s famous On the Subjection of Women first appeared). He was also an anti-imperialist, attacking European colonialists for their “deeds of blood and rapine” against “subjugated races.” To put it another way, Spencer was a thoroughgoing classical liberal, a principled champion of individual rights in all spheres of human life. Eugenics, which was based on racism, coercion, and collectivism, was alien to everything that Spencer believed.

The same can’t be said, however, for the progressive reformers who lined up against him. Take University of Wisconsin economist John R. Commons, one of the crusading figures that Hofstadter praised for opposing laissez-faire and sharing “a common consciousness of society as a collective whole rather than a congeries of individual atoms.” In his book Races and Immigrants in America (1907), Commons described African Americans as “indolent and fickle” and endorsed protectionist labor laws since “competition has no respect for the superior races.”
I Had Intended to Write a Column About ‘Social Darwinism’ … - By Reihan Salam - The Agenda - National Review Online

Monday, April 9, 2012

Then we shall know and understand why

Last night I watched Winter's Bone on Netflix. I watched it because I'd been reading about Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games  — a film I have not yet seen — and several of the reviews referenced her in that earlier film. Winter's Bone is a very good film, although it made me happy that my grandfather left Missouri to go to school in Wisconsin many years ago. One of the songs in the soundtrack was this one:




Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.

Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my sister, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.


Sometimes I wonder why must I suffer,
Out in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all that I know.

Tempted and tried, how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we’ve walked in God’s holy fear.

Often when death has taken our loved ones,
Leaving our home so lone and so drear,
Then do we wonder why others prosper,
Living so wicked year after year.

“Faithful till death,” saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.

Soon we will see our dear, loving Savior,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
Then we shall know and understand why.

Early Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade died last week. I've never been a fan of the Kinkade of sentimentality, cottages, and "light" but Joe Carter calls attention to "The Thomas Kinkade You Didn’t Know" and provides a number of examples of  that Kinkade's work.
But there is another Kinkade—the young struggling painter—that is largely unknown to both his admirers and his critics. Despite his extraordinary commercial success, Kinkade's earlier work is largely unknown to audiences familiar with his later mass market works.... [more]
On Kinkade and the media coverage of his death.

More, as of April 13, from GetReligion:
...[T]here were literally two Kinkades — the private artist and the commercial artist. ....

It seems that Kinkade’s own personal view of the world was expressed in one style, while he chose to perfect a completely different style that allowed him to connect with consumers, many of whom were attracted to his work by his vaguely spiritual approach to life (lots of unrealistic light and sentimentality, almost zero interest in human forms or traditional religious symbols and themes). ....

The Thomas Kinkade You Didn’t Know – The Gospel Coalition Blog

The Space Trilogy

All three of C.S. Lewis's "Space Trilogy" are available for Kindle at about $8 each. If you're inclined to own them, here are the links:
All are good, bu Perelandra has always been my favorite.

The Lion Awakes

This might be very good:


The Lion Awakes

Sunday, April 8, 2012

At the dawn of a new day

Via Trevin Wax
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.

In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night.

What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.

G.K. Chesterton
The World Died Last Night – Trevin Wax

Alleluia!


'Tis the spring of souls today; Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to Whom we give laud and praise undying.


“Alleluia!” now we cry to our King immortal,
Who, triumphant, burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portal;
“Alleluia!” with the Son, God the Father praising,
“Alleluia!” yet again to the Spirit raising.

John of Damascus, 8th Century
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. .... And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. .... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. .... If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead....
I Corinthians 15 [ESV]
O GOD, who for our redemption didst give Thine only-begotten Son to the death of the Cross, and by His glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy; Grant us so to die daily from sin, that we may evermore live with Him in the joy of His resurrection; through the same Thy Son Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP]

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Awake, sad heart


George Herbert: The Dawning:

AWAKE, sad heart, whom sorrow ever drowns ;
Take up thine eyes, which feed on earth ;
Unfold thy forehead, gathered into frowns ;
Thy Saviour comes, and with Him mirth :
Awake, awake,
And with a thankful heart His comforts take.
But thou dost still lament, and pine, and cry,
And feel His death, but not His victory.

Arise, sad heart; if thou dost not withstand,
Christ's resurrection thine may be ;
Do not by hanging down break from the hand
Which, as it riseth, raiseth thee :
Arise, Arise;
And with His burial linen drie thine eyes.
Christ left His grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears or blood, not want a handkerchief.
George Herbert, (1593-1633)

George Herbert: The Dawning.

To bear the dreadful curse


What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
Alexander Means, c. 1830
GRANT, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of Thy blessed Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with Him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for His merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP]

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday III

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
(John 19:31–37, KJV)

And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
(John 19:38–41, KJV)

Give us grace

Elizabeth Kantor gives us this from a bedtime prayer written by Jane Austen:
Give us grace to endeavour after a truly Christian spirit to seek to attain that temper of forbearance and patience of which our Blessed Saviour has set us the highest example; and which, while it prepares us for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure to us the best enjoyment of what this world can give. Incline us oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves.
Why We Call This Friday Good - Ricochet.com

Good Friday II



And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
[Mark 15:22-26, ESV]

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
 [Luke 23:44-46, ESV]
O MERCIFUL God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that Thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all who know Thee not as Thou art revealed in the Gospel of Thy Son. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of Thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to Thy fold, that they may be made one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. [BCP]

Good Friday I

And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” [Mark 15:22-26, ESV]

Justin Taylor:
Written over 20 years ago and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this article goes into graphic detail about the physical pain that Jesus would have endured in his beatings and crucifixion....
Here is an excerpt from that article, "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ" by William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer. The original article is substantially longer and detailed, with diagrams and ample citation. Our Lord's manner of execution was like that suffered by a great many others in the Roman world:
…. It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The patibulum, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign (titulus) on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the titulus would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden stipes, on which the patibulum would be secured. In the case of the Tau cross, this was accomplished by means of a mortise and tenon joint, with or without reinforcement by ropes. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat (sedile or sedulum), often was attached midway down the stipes. Only very rarely, and probably later than the time of Christ, was an additional block (suppedaneum) employed for transfixion of the feet.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the patibulum. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The archaeological remains of a crucified body, found in an ossuary near Jerusalem and dating from the time of Christ, indicate that the nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. Furthermore, ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin have documented that the nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the patibulum and the victim, together, were lifted onto the stipes. On the low cross, four soldiers could accomplish this relatively easily. However, on the tall cross, the soldiers used either wooden forks or ladders.

Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin suggest that nailing was the preferred Roman practice. Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the stipes or to a wooden footrest (suppedaneum), they usually were nailed directly to the front of the stipes. To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated laterally.

When the nailing was completed, the titulus was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees (crurifragium or skelokopia). …. [the article pdf]
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. [Luke 23:44-46, ESV]
Dorothy L. Sayers on at least part of the meaning:
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is - limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death - he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile." The Man Born to be King, Dorothy L. Sayers
And suffered far, far move than we do or ever will.

The Inklings: Good Friday, Between Two Worlds: On the Physical Death of Jesus

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday

ALMIGHTY Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of His Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of Him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen. [BCP]

I HAVE received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
[I Corinthians XI, KJV]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday before Easter

ASSIST us mercifully with Thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts, whereby Thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP]
Peter Kreeft from Making Sense Out of Suffering:
Jesus did three things to solve the problem of suffering. First, he came. He suffered with us. He wept. Second, in becoming man he transformed the meaning of our suffering: it is now part of his work of redemption. Our death pangs become birth pangs for heaven, not only for ourselves but also for those we love. Third, he died and rose. Dying, he paid the price for sin and opened heaven to us; rising, he transformed death from a hole into a door, from an end into a beginning.

That third thing, now - resurrection. It makes more than all the difference in the world. Many condolences begin by saying something like this: "I know nothing can bring back your dear one again, but.. ." No matter what words follow, no matter what comforting psychology follows that "but," Christianity says something to the bereaved that makes all the rest trivial, something the bereaved longs infinitely more to hear: God can and will bring back your dear one again to life. There is resurrection. [more]
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
[Jeremiah 17]

Suffering by Peter Kreeft

Relax and keep it simple

Sir Anthony Hopkins Talks to the Students of Thomas Aquinas College
On Thursday, March 29, students at Thomas Aquinas College were treated to an hour-long question-and-answer session with a visitor who is widely considered among the world's greatest living actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins.
The video is almost an hour long, but if you enjoy film or are interested in drama, I suspect you will enjoy this. And you will like Hopkins, not just as a very good actor, but as a person.



Sir Anthony Hopkins Talks to the Students of Thomas Aquinas College - YouTube

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Not just for knowing

It is probably the teacher in me that makes books like this one so appealing. I was always looking for readings that could explain an unfamiliar subject clearly, briefly, and systematically. That was a purpose Stott's Basic Christianity served for me. Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith looks like that kind of book. One of the reviewers at Amazon describes the content:
.... The primary argument of the book is that contemporary Christians need to rediscover the historic foundations of the Christian faith by revisiting the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. Bevins reminds us, "The Apostles' Creed addresses the doctrinal foundation, the Ten Commandments address the ethical foundation, and the Lord's Prayer addresses the spiritual foundation. When the doctrinal, ethical, and spiritual dimensions are woven together, they offer us a balanced model for the Christian life. These three summarize the heart of Christianity and offer us a glimpse of the Christian faith as a whole."

Bevins also reminds us that doctrine matters and is an essential part of Christian faith. He says, "Christian doctrine is not just for knowing, but for living." These three essentials found in the the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments are important tools for Christians everywhere regardless of their background. ....
I bought the Kindle version of Creed. Bevins begins his introduction with a quotation from Robert Webber
Early Christian teaching is simple and uncluttered; it cuts through the complexities of culturized Christianity and allows what is primary and essential to surface.
That is a promising beginning. Later in the introduction Bevins writes:
Christianity wasn't invented yesterday and the church is much larger than one denomination or nationality. These three standards — the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments — have been used as a sturdy foundation for discipleship and doctrine for nearly two thousand years. If they were essential for the early generation of believers, shouldn't they be important to us as well? Why should we reinvent the wheel?
Amazon.com: Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith (9781617471476): Winfield Bevins: Books

Liberated from chronological parochialism

Responding to an interviewer's questions, Suzannah, of the site "In Which I Read Vintage Novels," explains the advantages of reading such books:
Three benefits of vintage/classic fiction:
  1. The homeland of many, many classic novels is Christendom, unlike the majority today.
  2. After all this time, the greats are established and the chaff has been forgotten (although there is also the thrill in discovering forgotten greats).
  3. You become a time-traveler, able to look at life from the perspective of an author of some other time period. As a result you become able to recognise the attitudes of different time periods, and are liberated from chronological parochialism. Revisionist history fails to entrance you: instead, you learn from the horse's mouth how people really thought and lived and felt in the time of the Caesars, in medieval Europe, in Victorian Britain, in World War I.
In Which I Read Vintage Novels: Interview - Fiction and Nonfiction

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God."

C.S. Lewis on God's omnipotence, quoting portions from a passage in The Problem of Pain that can be found here:
Omnipotence means ‘power to do all, or everything’. And we are told in Scripture that ‘with God all things are possible’.

It is common enough, in argument with an unbeliever, to be told that God, if He existed and were good, would do this or that; and then, if we point out that the proposed action is impossible, to be met with the retort ‘But I thought God was supposed to be able to do anything’.

This raises the whole question of impossibility. ....

.... His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible.

You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense.

This is no limit to His power.

If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it’, you have not succeeded in saying ‘anything’ about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix them with the two other words ‘God can’.

It remains true that all ‘things’ are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities.

It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Chapter 2 (“Divine Omnipotence”), 1940
The Possible and the Impossible — C. S. Lewis on God’s Omnipotence | The American Culture