Thursday, February 27, 2014

"It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves"

On the occasion of Roger Scruton's seventieth birthday Brian Miller provides several quotations from his work, including this on the Hundredth Psalm:
Perhaps there is no more direct challenge to secular ways of thinking than the famous Hundredth Psalm, the Jubilate Deo, as translated in the Book of Common Prayer. .... The psalmist enjoins us to be joyful in the Lord, to serve the Lord with gladness and to come before his presence with a song. ....

Once we came before God’s presence with a song; now we come before his absence with a sigh. The triumphs of science and technology, the vanquishing of disease and the mastery over nature — these things coincide with a general moroseness, the origin of which, I believe, is religious. Someone who turns his back on God cannot receive his gifts with gratitude, but only with a grudging resentment at their insufficiency. No scientific advance will bestow eternal youth, eternal happiness, eternal love or loveliness. Hence no scientific advance can answer to our underlying religious need. Having put our trust in science we can expect only disappointment. And seeing, in the mirror raised by science, our own aggrieved and sullen faces, we are turned to disaffection with our kind. That is why the singing stops.

The psalmist goes on to remind us of the remedy: ‘Be ye sure that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.’ This sentence contains all of theology. .... [more]

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Theology after Verdun

After almost a century without a lengthy, devastating European war, came the Great War — The First World War — a war that still affects us. The United States was in it for only about a year — the final year — and it certainly had less impact on us than those who had endured the previous three years. Battles on the Western Front, in Belgium and France, were among the worst in history: killing grounds to little purpose or effect. One of them, the Battle of Verdun lasted almost a year with perhaps as many as 800,000 dead Germans and French. In "Operation Judgment" Philip Jenkins reviews a new history of that battle and how that kind of event affected Christian theology:
.... Struggling to comprehend the slaughter they were living through, both sides resorted freely to religious imagery. Given the overwhelmingly Christian foundations of European culture in that age, how could matters have been otherwise? From its beginnings, the attack on Verdun was codenamed Operation Gericht, "Judgment," and both military and media sources readily lapsed into God-talk. By far the commonest image was that of sacrifice, with its implications of voluntary redemptive bloodshed. On both sides, soldiers shed their blood for national resurrection, dying that others might live. Already too, both sides were adopting the language of immolation, of (voluntary) holocaust. For participants, though, the battle raised fundamental questions about all religious assumptions and rhetoric, and the nature of Christian societies. The reigning deity of Verdun was Moloch. ....

Was it possible to witness Verdun without facing searching questions about the whole basis of Christendom? Was "Christian civilization" an oxymoron? As the battle raged that summer, one non-combatant thinker was agonizing over that question. Just two hundred miles from the battlefield, in neutral Switzerland, Karl Barth was seeking answers in Paul's Letter to the Romans, which described how even the best-intentioned human beings succumb to the world's temptations. Barth portrayed a world fallen into illusion and self-deception, a world prepared to annihilate a whole continent in the name of the false gods they erected—such idols as patriotism, nationalism, and honor. He demanded that Christians reject the world's false claims to allegiance, its Prestige Trap. ....

Philosopher Theodor Adorno famously declared, "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." Pursuing theology after Verdun was scarcely easier—but nevertheless imperative. [more]

"Ye are like unto whited sepulchres..."

Boston College philosopher Peter Kreeft:
The common, modern misunderstanding of hypocrisy [is] not practicing what you preach. ...Actually, we have misdefined “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is not the failure to practice what you preach but the failure to believe it. Hypocrisy is propaganda.
The great art critic William Hazlitt (1778-1830):
He is a hypocrite who professes what he does not believe; not he who does not practice all he wishes or approves.
The American Heritage Dictionary:
[Hypocrisy is] the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
Inigo Montoya:
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
If we were honest with ourselves and hypocrisy actually meant "not practicing what you preach" then we would all be guilty. Each of us fails to a greater or lesser degree to consistently do what we honestly believe we should.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cymru am byth (Wales forever)

Every American knows that St Patrick's Day comes in March. Far fewer are aware of St David's Day (March 1), the national day of Wales. Both my father and mother had ancestors who were Welsh and — although I've only been to Wales twice — that ancestry has provided me with a certain unearned pride that grows the more I learn about the land. Today, on his blog, Sean Curnyn posts about the new release of a 1957 recording "Music from the Welsh Mines" by the Rhos Male Voice Choir. That site has links to various places where the music can be purchased. I've just ordered a copy but, since it will come from the UK, I won't have it by this weekend. Part of Curnyn's persuasive description:
.... Below is embedded a YouTube clip that has some samples from the old recording, but its availability should not deter anyone from buying the new release which is substantially cleaned-up and enhanced in terms of sound quality. ....

The clip...below features this Rhos Male Voice Choir singing the very poignant Welsh national anthem, “Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (“Land of my Fathers”) followed by two liturgical hymns, “Ave Verum” and “Laudamus.” The fourth and final tune in the clip is “Myfanwy,” an old Welsh ballad of lost love, which, whenever I hear a fine rendition—as this one most certainly is—I am quite willing to declare is simply the most devastating song ever composed, in any language, by any human, anywhere. ....

Every track on the album is astounding in its way, including another Welsh love lament titled “Ar Doriad Dydd” (“On the break of day”), the exceedingly haunting rendition of the Welsh hymn “Tydi a Roddaist” (“O Lord, who gave the dawn its glow”), and about as affecting a musical performance of the 23rd Psalm (in English) as one need ever hear during one’s life on this old earth. ....


I will fly the Red Dragon on March 1st and I will probably watch A Run for Your Money (1949), one of my favorite movies involving the Welsh: a comedy, with Welsh singing and harp playing, and a very young Alec Guiness. Part of Wikipedia's plot summary:
Two Welsh coal miners from Hafoduwchbenceubwllymarchogcoch, David 'Dai Number 9' Jones (Donald Houston) and Thomas 'Twm' Jones (Meredith Edwards), win a contest run by the Echo newspaper.... The prize is 100 pounds each, plus the best seats for an important rugby union match between Wales and England at Twickenham. For the naive Welshmen, this is their first trip to England.

They are supposed to be met at Paddington station by Whimple (Alec Guinness), a gardening columnist on the paper, but they miss each other. ....
And I may watch Zulu, too, if only to hear them sing "Men of Harlech."


Music from the Welsh Mines – Rhos Male Voice Choir | The Cinch Review

Friday, February 21, 2014

The face of battle

The current Weekly Standard contains "an appreciation" of John Keegan's books by Edwin Yoder. Keegan wrote military history and, in addition to being a good historian, he was also a good writer of history. I read The Face of Battle soon after it was published in 1976. I lent it to the teacher in the room next to mine. He had been an infantry platoon commander in the Korean War. When the book came back it was full of marginalia—all approving—with much underlining, many exclamation points, and this note:
Thank you for letting me read this. I found it profoundly true — the first I've read that really tried to explore the fears and forces working on an infantryman in battle, It was not easy for me to read though because it awakened long soothed fears and anxieties and some memories that had been covered over by the passing years.
Yoder:
The Face of Battle permanently changed the way historians think and write about war. If the casual reader reads only one of Keegan’s books, it should be this one. He addresses three memorable English battles—Agincourt (1415), Waterloo (1815), and the Somme (1916)—and the essential thesis is the transition from “edged” weapons that permitted hand-to-hand fighting and heroic styles of command through to the erraticisms of musketry in Napoleonic warfare that still allowed commanders to lead from the front of formations to the deadly rifled and machine-gun fire of World War I, which raised the human cost exponentially and moved command miles from the front, leading to the “impersonalization” of battle that, as of Keegan’s time of writing, heralded its end.
Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., "Literary Man of War: John Keegan: an appreciation," Weekly Standard, March 3, 2014, pp. 36-38.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Burke v Paine

If you have any interest in political theory at all this should be of interest:

http://www.c-span.org/video/?316636-1/words-yuval-levin


Words Yuval Levin | Video | C-SPAN.org

Confessing our sinfuness is not enough

C.S. Lewis died in 1963. Not long before he gave an interview to Decision magazine, the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. From that interview as re-published at Mere C.S. Lewis:
Sherwood Wirt: A light touch has been characteristic of your writings, even when you are dealing with heavy theological themes. Would you say there is a key to the cultivation of such an attitude?

C.S. Lewis: I believe this is a matter of temperament. However, I was helped in achieving this attitude by my studies of the literary men of the Middle Ages. and by the writings of G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton, for example, was not afraid to combine serious Christian themes with buffoonery. In the same way. the miracle plays of the Middle Ages would deal with a sacred subject such as the nativity of Christ, yet would combine it with a farce….

Wirt: What Christian writers have helped you?

Lewis: The contemporary book that has helped me the most is Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. ....

Wirt: I believe it was Chesterton who was asked why he became a member of the church, and he replied, ‘To get rid of my sins.’ [At this point I was surprised by the suddenness of Professor Lewis’ reply.]

Lewis: it is not enough to want to get rid of one’s sins. We also need to believe in the One who saves us from our sins. Not only do we need to recognize that we are sinners; we need to believe in a Saviour who takes away sin. Matthew Arnold once wrote, ‘Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.’ Because we are sinners, it does not follow that we are saved. [more]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Trust me anyway"

Via Elizabeth Scalia, Benedict XVI:
The sum of human life does not strike a balance if we omit God; in that case, only contradictions remain. It is not enough, then, to believe somehow theoretically that there is a God; we must regard him as the most important element in our life. he must be everywhere. And our fundamental relationship to him must be love.

That can often be very difficult. It can happen, for instance, that one individual has many illnesses ...poverty makes life difficult for another. Yet a third loses the persons on whose love his whole life depends. ...And there is a great danger that the individual will become embittered and will say: God can certainly not be good; if he were, he would not treat me this way.

Such a revolt against god is very understandable; often it seems almost impossible to accept God’s will. But one who yields to this rebellion poisons his whole life. The poison of saying No, of being angry with God and with the world, corrodes the individual from within.

But what God asks of us is, as it were, an advance of confidence. He says to us: "I know, you don’t understand me yet. But trust me anyway, believe that I am good, and dare to live by this trust." There are many instances of saints and great individuals who dared to trust and, in consequence, found for themselves and for others true happiness amid the greatest darkness. – from Auf Christus schauen pp 109-110

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The problem of evil

At a site I visit frequently one of the members questions the effectiveness of prayer: "I don't pray because of Pascal's wager, for I do believe. I pray because I want God to listen, even if He won't alter predestination or random negative events. Knowing God could alter them but won't is a tough way to rationalize our earthly intelligence with that of a supreme being." He refers to a group to which he belongs studying C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain and also to a couple he knows who are experiencing great physical and emotional hardship. There are a lot of responses to his enquiry including one that led me to the lecture below by Peter Kreeft, who begins by quoting from the preface of that book by Lewis:
...[T]he only purpose of the book is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience I was never fool enough to consider myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.
That is also what Kreeft attempts here acknowledging that answering the intellectual problem may not help those in the midst of emotional crisis. I have always found Kreeft helpful as an apologist and this is pretty good. It takes about an hour and a quarter.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why do the wicked prosper?

The second season of House of Cards became available on Netflix yesterday. It is certainly one of the best television dramas (The British original, also available on Netflix, was good, too). Netflix makes the entire season of an original series available all at once — I am already up to episode eight out of thirteen. Frank Underwood (F.U.) continues his rise to greater political power completely unrestrained by any moral consideration. If you prefer drama that is morally uplifting this isn't it—although it does make vice repellant. I liked what Jordan Ballor had to say about the series in House of Cards: One Righteous Man:
.... The prophet Jeremiah lamented the apparent flourishing of evildoers, asking of God, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jer 12:1). Underwood’s career in the first season has been one of prospering, at least in terms of political fortunes and influence, even if it hasn’t been the most restful of sessions for the veteran congressman. Indeed, Underwood is like the wicked of the psalmist’s complaint, who “day and night prowl about” on the walls of the city without rest (Ps. 55:10), one of “those who are bloodthirsty, in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes” (Ps. 26:10). ....

In House of Cards, we have yet to see a character whom Underwood cannot find some way to cajole, coerce, or otherwise corrupt into serving his purposes. Frank can seemingly always find some way to extort or deceive. Everyone can be manipulated; everyone has weaknesses that can be exploited.

Frank Underwood has bought in to a fatal conceit: that seeking power to dominate and control others fulfills us and makes us strong. But as Augustine puts it, this is a basic “falsehood,” that “we commit sin so that things may go well with us, and, instead, they go ill with us. Or we sin so that we may fare better, and, instead, we fare worse.” Frank will ultimately be left with what Augustine observed about the fallen world, that “every disordered soul is its own punishment.”

The iniquity of the city of man on full display in House of Cards leaves us wondering whether there is even one righteous man for whom the city might be spared. .... [more]

Friday, February 14, 2014

Inerrancy and the age of the earth

C Michael Patton lists "Six Factors that Do Not Affect Inerrancy." His post attracted my attention because of a discussion several of my friends have been having on Facebook (provoked by another of my postings). Patton's second point:
2. Speaking According to Cultural Convenience

Sometimes the Bible speaks in accordance with cultural understanding without any attempt to correct that understanding. For example, in Mark 4:31, Christ claims that the mustard seed is the smallest seed in all the earth. This does not necessarily mean that if agricultural science ever found a seed that was smaller (and they have), Christ was wrong. Christ could have just been making a statement that was in concert with the cultural understanding of the day without making a objective universal claim about this seed. The mustard seed was the smallest seed that these Palestinian farmers knew of.

While I don’t have any strong convictions about the age of the earth or how literal[ly] we should take the early chapters of Genesis, it is quite possible that much of what is being said is one of cultural convenience. This does not affect inerrancy, but is a matter of one’s hermeneutics (rules of interpretation). .... [more]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lincoln's birthday

From last Feb 12:

"...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln, November 19, 1863

Once upon a time we celebrated the birthdays of our greatest Presidents on the anniversary of the actual day upon which each was born. Today is the birth day of Abraham Lincoln. And, appropriately, today I received the March issue of First Things with an article by Andrew Ferguson, "Lincoln and the Will of God," which they have made available online. Ferguson, of course, is the author of Land of Lincoln, a book about the meaning of Lincoln to Americans as much as about Lincoln himself. From the article:
.... For generations, Americans have liked to say they wanted their children to be like Lincoln: principled, resolute, patient, kind. But what we’ve really wanted is for Lincoln to be like us, whoever we are.

Nowhere has the appropriation been as relentless as in the matters of religion and Lincoln’s spiritual life. Mary Baker Eddy claimed the martyred president as an early proponent of Christian Science, though her discovery of Divine Healing came a year after his death. In the early 1900s, the California guru Paramahansa Yogananda announced that Lincoln had once been a yogi in the Himalayas.

Closer to earth, the evangelizing atheist Robert Ingersoll tagged him as a model of the freethinking skeptic, and the founders of the Ethical Culture Society agreed. In the 1920s, Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago asserted that Lincoln—who was reared by Baptists, married by an Episcopalian, and subjected in his adulthood to endless hours sitting in straight-backed pews being preached at by Presbyterians—was nevertheless a man of closeted Catholic faith, who delighted in laying out an altar for Mass whenever his Catholic aunt came to visit.

Not every attempt to enlist Lincoln is far-fetched, of course, and a good deal of energy has been expended in simply trying to figure out what religious convictions Lincoln held, if any. [....]

“I don’t know anything about Lincoln’s religion,” a longtime friend, David Davis, remarked after Lincoln’s death, “and I don’t believe anybody knows anything about it.” Though Davis’ skepticism should give pause to more historians than it has, he overstated the case. We will never know for sure whether Lincoln held orthodox Christian beliefs, whether he believed in the Trinity, the divinity of Christ or his resurrection, the life everlasting, the forgiveness of sins, the inerrant word of God as revealed in the Old Testament or the New.

But perhaps the country has benefited from not knowing. The uncertainty has made Lincoln our common property, whoever we are, from Robert Ingersoll to Cardinal Mundelein to Nettie Maynard. It may be indeed that Lincoln’s is the only kind of religious expression that will travel in a free country like ours. His religion has lasted a century and a half and has appealed to believers of all kinds, and to skeptics too, exactly because of its generality. Yet it still means something definable and concrete: The country, Lincoln believed, is the carrier of a precious cargo, a proposition that is the timeless human truth, and the survival of this principle will always be of providential importance. We assent to Lincoln’s creed, wide open as it is, when we think of ourselves as Americans. [more]
FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life

"A brain like a peahen"

Kevin DeYoung has been reading Wodehouse again:
P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit [1954] – A sheer delight. To wit: “All this nonsense you have been talking, trying to reconcile me and D’Arcy. Not that I don’t admire you for it. I think it’s rather wonderful of you. But then everybody says that, though you have a brain like a peahen, you’re the soul of kindness and generosity.” To which Bertie muses: “Well, I was handicapped here by the fact that, never having met a peahen, I was unable to estimate the quality of these fowls’ intelligence, but she had spoken as if they were a bit short of the grey matter, and I was about to ask her who the hell she meant by ‘everybody’, when she resumed.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Is atheism irrational?

Alvin Plantinga, in an interview printed in the New York Times, argues that atheism is irrational. The entire interview is interesting. A few excerpts from Plantinga's responses:
...[L]ack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism. No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there are an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars. The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism.

In the same way, the failure of the theistic arguments, if indeed they do fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism. Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence. ....

.... I don’t think arguments are needed for rational belief in God. In this regard belief in God is like belief in other minds, or belief in the past. Belief in God is grounded in experience, or in the sensus divinitatis, John Calvin’s term for an inborn inclination to form beliefs about God in a wide variety of circumstances.

Nevertheless, I think there are a large number — maybe a couple of dozen — of pretty good theistic arguments. None is conclusive, but each, or at any rate the whole bunch taken together, is about as strong as philosophical arguments ordinarily get. ....

Some atheists seem to think that a sufficient reason for atheism is the fact (as they say) that we no longer need God to explain natural phenomena — lightning and thunder for example. We now have science.

As a justification of atheism, this is pretty lame. We no longer need the moon to explain or account for lunacy; it hardly follows that belief in the nonexistence of the moon (a-moonism?) is justified. A-moonism on this ground would be sensible only if the sole ground for belief in the existence of the moon was its explanatory power with respect to lunacy. (And even so, the justified attitude would be agnosticism with respect to the moon, not a-moonism.) The same thing goes with belief in God: Atheism on this sort of basis would be justified only if the explanatory power of theism were the only reason for belief in God. And even then, agnosticism would be the justified attitude, not atheism. ....[more]
(Added on 2/12) David Berlinski, mathematician, philosopher, and agnostic:
.... Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?

Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?

Dead on. .... [more]

Monday, February 10, 2014

"That Hideous Strength"

Suzannah thinks That Hideous Strength is one of the best of C.S. Lewis's books and one that she might recommend first:
...[I]f there's one CS Lewis book I highly recommend everyone to read, it would be this one (perhaps even above Till We Have Faces). That Hideous Strength is, admittedly, an odd book. But it may be Lewis's most relevant. It's a book about statism, revolution, perversion, bureaucracy, modern education, scientific materialism, and transhumanism pitted against what one hapless character comes to call "the Straight": Christianity, beauty, freedom, morality, law.

Mark and Jane Studdock have been married six months when Mark, a sociologist at a small university, finds himself (almost by mistake, but driven by an insatiable desire to join the In Crowd) recruited by the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, or NICE for short, a kind of nationalised scientific research body--or so they claim. .... [more]
I haven't read that book for decades. Perhaps it is time to re-read.

Hollow men

Randall Jarrell once observed that “The people who live in a Golden Age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks.” The same could be said of intellectuals in the United States in the 1950s. Liberal intellectuals in that era criticized the American people for their bovine conformity, gross materialism (all the tail-fins and chrome on those wastefully big cars!), and lack of appetite for thoroughgoing social transformation. ....

...[A]lthough Marsden credits the intellectual elites of the ’50s for their perceptiveness in realizing that American culture was in crisis, he rebukes them for lacking any adequate remedies for the coming upheaval, and indeed for having done much to bring it on.

More particularly, Marsden declares that the characteristic outlook of 1950s moderate-to-liberal intellectuals can be understood as “latter-day efforts to sustain the ends of the American enlightenment, but without that enlightenment’s intellectual means.” ....

The 1950s intellectuals shared the founders’ reverence for science and the individual, but not their belief in natural laws, established by a Creator, that constituted self-evident principles apprehensible through reason. The liberal culture of the 1950s therefore had no adequate criteria for determining “the good,” and so in Marsden’s view its efforts to sustain a humane, progressive public consensus were bound to fail. ....

Marsden perceptively observes that Martin Luther King Jr., unlike most liberal proponents of civil rights, did believe in a God-given order and moral laws that could be comprehended by all men and women. .... [more]

Friday, February 7, 2014

"Wholesale murder"

Eric Metaxas reacts to a series of articles called "The Evil of The Age":
...[A]nother BreakPoint pop quiz: name the major American newspaper that ran an expose on what goes on in abortion mills entitled “The Evil of the Age.”

Give up? The answer is the New York Times.

No, you haven’t missed anything: the expose ran in the paper’s August 23, 1871 edition. ....

The Times sent one of its reporters, accompanied by a woman, to the “city’s most notable abortionists.” The reporter summed up his findings thusly: “there is a systematic business of wholesale murder conducted by men and women in this city that is seldom detected, rarely interfered with, and scarcely ever punished by law.” ....

...[A]ttitudes toward abortion in America have never been fixed and immutable. The nineteenth century saw abortion go from mostly illegal but winked at, to illegal and strongly frowned upon. Public revulsion, translated into policy, put that century’s abortion mills out of business.

It could happen again. .... [more]
The Evil of The Age

Raffles

E.W. Hornung was Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law. He also ventured into fiction involving crime and detection but, unlike Sherlock Holmes, his protagonist, A.J. Raffles, was a criminal. Wikipedia describes Raffles:
Raffles and Bunny are men-about-town who also commit burglaries. Raffles is a famous gentleman cricketer, a marvellous spin bowler who is often invited to social events that would be out of his reach otherwise. "I was asked about for my cricket", he comments after this period is over. It ends when they are caught and exposed on an ocean voyage while attempting another theft; Raffles dives overboard and is presumed drowned. These stories were collected in The Amateur Cracksman. Other stories set in this period, written after Raffles had been "killed off" were collected in A Thief in the Night.

The second phase begins some time later when Bunny – having served a prison sentence – is summoned to the house of a rich invalid. This turns out to be Raffles himself, back in England in disguise. Then begins their "professional" period, exiled from Society, in which they are straightforward thieves trying to earn a living while keeping Raffles's identity a secret. ....
Both books are available, free, for Kindle or other electronic formats at ManyBooks: The Amateur Cracksman and A Thief in the Night. In 1930 Ronald Colman played the character in a film that was remade in 1939 starring David Niven.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"These things I remember, as I pour out my soul..."

It strikes me as I read through Psalm 42 — as I frequently do — how crucial memory is to the process of faith in the midst of difficulty or depression. “These things I remember…” the psalmist says in verse 4. When God allows affliction, it is important to remember his historic faithfulness.

There is a reason the Israelites filled the ark of the covenant with mementos of God’s faithfulness, and it’s not because they were magic talismans.

When you are stuck, deep, despondent, or in despair, think back to what God has delivered you from in difficult times past. Remember how he has never really failed you. Remember your way all the way back to Mount Calvary and the empty tomb. Remembering God’s historic faithfulness is the first step in enjoying his present faithfulness to you, even if you don’t feel it. ....

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Good books


Suzannah Rountree of "In Which I Read Vintage Novels" has created an index of all her reviews and essays organized alphabetically by the author reviewed. She writes good, informative, reviews of books—usually books she likes—often books that have fallen out of fashion—responding to them from within a Christian perspective. Most of them are from the 19th and early to mid 20th centuries. I invariably like what she has to say about authors I know, like Lewis, Tolkien, Buchan, Chesterton, Wodehouse, etc., and consequently have confidence in her judgement when she writes about those less familiar to me. Her "Review Index" is here.