Saturday, December 31, 2016

Old times and old friends

I've posted this or a variation of it several times before on New Year's Eves:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and days of auld lang syne?

Peggy Noonan, in 2011, on the song:
"Auld Lang Syne"—the phrase can be translated as "long, long ago," or "old long since," but I like "old times past"—is a song that asks a question, a tender little question that has to do with the nature of being alive, of being a person on a journey in the world. It not only asks, it gives an answer.

It was written, or written down, by Robert Burns, lyric poet and Bard of Scotland. In 1788 he sent a copy of the poem to the Scots Musical Museum, with the words: "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, has never been in print." Burns was interested in the culture of Scotland, and collected old folk tales and poems. He said he got this one "from an old man"—no one knows who—and wrote it down. Being a writer, Burns revised and compressed. He found the phrase auld lang syne "exceedingly expressive" and thought whoever first wrote the poem "heaven inspired." The song spread throughout Scotland, where it was sung to mark the end of the old year, and soon to the English-speaking world, where it's sung to mark the new.

The question it asks is clear: Should those we knew and loved be forgotten and never thought of? Should old times past be forgotten? No, says the song, they shouldn't be. We'll remember those times and those people, we'll toast them now and always, we'll keep them close. "We'll take a cup of kindness yet." .... [more]
SHOULD auld acquaintance be forgot,    
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne

And here 's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae rin about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine;
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
We twa hae paidl't i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd      
Sin' auld lang syne.

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

The statue of Burns below stands not far from where my brother lives in Milwaukee, WI. The story of why it came to be there.


 Days of Auld Lang What?, OnMilwaukee.com Buzz: Burns statue salutes 'Auld Lang Syne' creator

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Remembering

This Christmas Terry Teachout's brother sent him hours of digitized home movies taken by their father and they brought forth memories. Some of what he wrote:
...[M]y parents are dead now. So is everyone in my father’s family. So are my mother’s parents, and all but one of her siblings. And so, of course, is the simpler, less knowing world of my youth that is enshrined in those faded movies, the self-confident age of Eisenhower and Kennedy, of three TV networks and tuna casserole with crumbled potato chips on top, of films and newspapers and Books of the Month that everyone saw, read, and believed. It lives only in memory....

Memories are especially important at this time of year, to me and, I suspect, to most people who have put youth behind them. “‘I miss.’ That sums up Christmas for me.” So said a thirty-nine-year-old friend of mine the other day, and I knew what she meant. How could I not? I miss my mother and father. I miss my aunts and uncles. I miss the old wooden swing on the porch of my grandmother’s house. I miss the Christmas presents and sliding boards and carefree vacations that my father loved to film. I miss the shadowless summer afternoons (“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language,” Henry James once said to Edith Wharton) when there was nothing to worry about, when my parents did the worrying behind my back and let me assume that all was right with the world.

For a long time I returned each Christmas to Smalltown, U.S.A. I slept in my old bedroom, ate my mother’s cooking, and pretended, even after my father died, that nothing had changed, even though I knew perfectly well that everything had changed. ....

To have had a happy childhood is the greatest of gifts, a permanent source of comfort and inspiration. ....

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A prayer for Christmas

From The Book of Common Prayer, a prayer for Christmas Day:
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christ's three-fold coming



"The Christmas Oratorio recounts the coming of Christ in history in order to help bring about the coming of Christ in the hearts of its hearers, while pointing them toward the final coming of Christ at its end." 

Christ's Three-Fold Coming in Music | Nathaniel Peters | First Things

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bilbo: "Never laugh at live dragons"

In the mail today:


David Rowe, Proverbs of Middle-earth at Oloris Publishing, and at Amazon, at each location for $18.00.

From the publisher's description:
The works of JRR Tolkien are unique in English Literature, as they are filled with hundreds of original proverbs. 'Not all those who wander are lost,' 'Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,' and 'Never laugh at live dragons' are all poetic, wise, and convincingly real-sounding, but they are also a lens, through which more can be seen. These proverbs belong to entirely invented wisdom traditions and reflect the culture, the philosophical worldview, and the history of those who use them.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas gifts, 1916

I've been browsing through the December, 1916, issue of St. Nicholas magazine — one hundred years ago. That magazine, as I noted a couple of posts ago, was intended for a young audience. All of the issues before 1924 are available online as PDFs. When looking at old magazines I always find the advertisements interesting. Advertisers, of course, motivated to sell a product, are always attempting to appeal to their potential buyers and, if they're any good, will provide some insight into those folks — both the children and their parents. These ads are all from that December issue of the magazine. The ads can all be enlarged to make the text more readable.

Parker Pen, of course, was located in Janesville, Wisconsin:
Sleeping on a glowing watch may not have been a great idea: 

"One Christmas was so much like another..."

I'm not sure when began our Christmas tradition of listening to Dylan Thomas's reading of his A Child's Christmas in Wales, but it has continued.


The edition of the book in my library is the same as that illustrated in the YouTube above. One of the illustrations from that book:

"For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. ..."

Friday, December 16, 2016

A new Bible

Just in time for the Holidays — almost like a gift to myself (although I invested in it almost three years ago) — arriving this afternoon:


Bibliotheca is one of only two KickStarter projects in which I've invested. One of them failed. This one came through and it is beautiful.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas card - 2016


Santa Claus

Of all the portrayals of the modern St Nicholas — Santa Claus ("a right jolly old elf") — this is my favorite, from the cover of St. Nicholas magazine, December, 1916:


Kevin DeYoung on the real St. Nicholas.

The magazine itself:
St. Nicholas Magazine (1873-1941) was a successful American children's magazine, published by Scribner's beginning in November 1873, and designed for children five to eighteen. ....

From the outset St. Nicholas Magazine published work of the best contemporary illustrators: Charles Dana Gibson, Arthur Rackham and Howard Pyle, all contributed to St. Nicholas and later, Ellis Parker Butler, Norman Rockwell and Livingston Hopkins.

"The best-known children's authors and illustrators contributed to St. Nicholas," according to a 2002 review on children's literature. Many children's classics were first serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine. Its first runaway hit was with "Little Lord Fauntleroy." Louisa May Alcott's Jo's Boys was serialized in the magazine, and Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. ....
Scans of St. Nicholas magazine up through 1923 can be found here.

For a time I owned some bound collections of St. Nicholas from the 19th century that had been discarded from the Milton College Library.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It can happen here

A warning for Americans from a Canadian professor who has been critical of legislation that mandates particular language and criminalizes violations. Apparently at least one American city has already gone down that path:
.... Authorities [in New York City] now fine citizens up to $250,000 for the novel crime of “mis-gendering” — referring to people by any words other than their pronouns of choice (including newly constructed words such as zie/hir, ey/em/eir and co). ....

.... The Big Apple now legally protects a non-exhaustive list of 31 gender identities. ....

Facebook offers a choice of 58. ....

“Gender-neutral” pronouns are, in my opinion, part of the “PC Game.” Here’s how you play:
First, you identify a domain of human endeavor. It could be the wealth of people within a society. It could be the psychological well-being of individuals within a given organization. It could be the prowess of school children at a particular sport.

Second, you note the inevitable continuum of success. Some people are richer or happier than others. Some children are better at playing volleyball.

Third, you define those doing comparatively better as oppressors of those doing comparatively worse.

Fourth, and finally, you declare solidarity with the latter, and enmity for the former (now all-too-convenient targets for your resentment and hatred).
You have now established your moral superiority, cost-free, and can trumpet it at will. ....

Words such as zie and hir, are, in my opinion, moves in the PC game. It’s not a game I wish to play. .... It’s a free speech issue, in its essence.

People often defend freedom of speech on the grounds that citizens must retain the right to criticize their leaders. That’s true, but it’s not the fundamental truth. ....

To identify problems, solve them, and reach consensus, we have to do it foolishly. We have to mis-speak, and over-react, and engage badly in intense verbal conflict. We have to be tested and corrected by others. All of that requires legal protection.

People become upset by differences of opinion, and want them suppressed. And it’s no wonder. But the alternative is worse.

Without free speech, we cannot explore our ever-transforming territories, orient ourselves, and get to the point. Without freedom of speech, we will not talk — and we will not think. ....

There is...a crucial difference between laws that stop people from saying arguably dangerous words and laws that mandate the use of politically-approved words and phrases. We have never had laws of the latter sort before, not in our countries. This is no time to start. .... [more]

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christie and Mother Goose

Related to the last post — Agatha Christie enjoyed using nursery rhymes as titles for her books and short stories. I'm sure there are others. The links are to the rhymes.

"For every evil under the sun..."

An early addition to my personal library was The Annotated Mother Goose: Nursery Rhymes Old and New, Arranged and Explained (1962) annotated by William S. Baring-Gould and Ceil Baring-Gould. At about the same time I bought The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass (1960) by Lewis Carroll and edited by Martin Gardner (still in print), and later, The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (1967) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, also annotated by Baring-Gould. All of these "annotated" editions were published by Clarkson S. Potter. The notes explained historical origins, defined unfamiliar terms, noted inconsistencies in the texts, described biographical and geographical circumstances, etc. This morning I took down the Mother Goose volume. The range is large, from "Simple Simon" to "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" to "Georgie Porgy kissed the girls" to "Rub-adub-dub, Three men in a tub..." and many, many more. One of the shorter chapters (Chapter XV) collected "Mother Goose's Wise Sayings" from which these examples (and a few comments):

Mother Goose was a conservative:
For every evil under the sun,
There is a remedy, or there is none,
If there be one, try and find it:
If there be none, never mind it.
Many of the rhymes are about proper behavior, for example:
Of a little take a little
   You're kindly welcome, too;
Of a little leave a little
   'Tis manners so to do.

Be always on time,
Too late is a crime.

Hearts, like doors, will ope with ease
To very, very, little keys,
And don't forget that two of these
Are "I thank you" and "If you please."
The first line of this one is familiar, but the second isn't, and that is where the wisdom lies.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy:
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.
 One may as well adopt this attitude on a day like today:
The more rain, the more rest,
Fine weather's not always the best.
One thing at a time,
   And that done well,
Is a very good rule,
   As many can tell.

If you are not handsome at twenty,
Not strong at thirty,
Not rich at forty,
Not wise at fifty,
You never will be.

Of all the sayings in the world
  The one to see you through
Is, never trouble trouble
  Till trouble troubles you.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A carol on Christmas Eve

From The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, this edition illustrated by Michael Hague, one of my favorite illustrators.
.... It was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when they flung the door open. In the forecourt, lit by the dim rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little field mice stood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their forepaws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, "Now then, one, two, three!" and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snowbound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yuletime.
CAROL
Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside, 
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!
Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow—
Saw the star o'er a stable low;
Mary she might not further go—
Welcome thatch, and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!
Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet—
You by the fire and we in the street—
Bidding you joy in the morning!
And then they heard the angels tell
"Who were the first to cry Nowell?
Animals all, as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!"
For ere one half of the night was gone,
Sudden a star has led us on,
Raining bliss and benison—
Bliss tomorrow and more anon,
Joy for every morning!

The voices ceased, the singers, bashful but smiling, exchanged sidelong glances, and silence succeeded but for a moment only. Then from up above and faraway, down the tunnel they had so lately travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical hum the sound of distant bells ringing a joyful and clangorous peal.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"A morbid obsession with the future"

Via Anecdotal Evidence, Roger Scruton:
Nostalgia is an unhealthy state of mind. But the study, love and emulation of the past are necessary to our self-understanding. All that has gone most wrong in our century has proceeded from a morbid obsession with the future—a belief in 'new dawns', 'revolutionary transformations', and resurrected nations on the march. The past, unlike the future, can be known, understood and adapted to our current uses. When we cast ourselves free from it, we are swept away by outside forces, adrift on the oceanic tide of happening. The future, which we cannot describe, begins to seem inevitable. This surrender to the unknown persists, despite all the crime and destruction that have been wrought in its name.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wheat and tares

Alan Jacobs — who neither tweets nor reads tweets — has discovered that something he has written has excited a tweet-storm. He has also concluded that "social media really have killed reading." I'm not familiar with all of the issues but in earlier posts he indicates that he agrees with the need for church discipline. I find what he posts today absolutely right:
...The determination of who is and is not a Christian is above your pay grade, and expressly forbidden to you by Jesus. Again we must return to the parable of the wheat and the weeds, which, like all the parables, is about the Kingdom of God. When Jesus explains the parable, he says that “the good seed is the sons of the kingdom,” while “the weeds are the sons of the evil one.” But when “the servants of the master of the house” want to gather up the weeds, the master forbids them, “lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” Note what the master’s verdict is here: he is not concerned that the servants will leave too many weeds; he is, rather, concerned that in their over-exuberance, their hypertrophied zeal for justice, they will mistake wheat for weeds: they will see “sons of the evil one” where they ought to be seeing “sons of the kingdom.” And apparently this tendency is so entrenched in the servants that they are not merely warned to be careful, they are forbidden the task altogether. They are not allowed to identify “sons of the evil one.” Note that the explanation of the parable says that there are indeed sons of the evil one, and merely points out that the servants of the master of the house cannot reliably identify them.

Why does all of this matter? It matters because when someone in my church, or within the Christian fold more generally, says or does things that I believe terribly wrong, or terribly mistaken, I have many options available to me but among them is not the declaration that “You are not a child of the kingdom, you are a child of the evil one." ....

And see, once you acknowledge those you passionately disagree with as brothers and sisters in Christ, as fellow members of “the household of faith,” a great many obligations kick in. The letters of the New Testament are full of instruction for how we brothers and sisters are to interact with one another, and almost all of that instruction is sobering in its rigor: We must be patient, humble, gentle, not quarrelsome, encouraging and upbuilding — and must exhibit all those traits even when we believe people are wrong and are striving to correct them. It’s hard work, and I stink at it. But that’s what we’re all called to.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Are all sins equal?

Michael J. Kruger has been posting a series about "Taking Back Christianese." Today he addresses “All Sins Are Equal in God’s Sight,” a phrase which, he notes "does not come from Scripture." After explaining what those who use the phrase probably mean by it, he writes:
...[T]o say all sins are the same is to confuse the effect of sin with the heinousness of sin. While all sins are equal in their effect (they separate us from God), they are not all equally heinous.

Second, the Bible differentiates between sins. Some sins are more severe in terms of impact (1 Cor 6:18), in terms of culpability (Rom 1:21-32), and in terms of the judgment warranted (2 Pet 2:17; Matt 9:42; James 3:1).

...[T]he Westminster Larger Catechism 150 agrees:
Q. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?

A. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous, but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.
Third, although all people are sinners, the Bible makes it clear that some are more holy than others. The Bible has the category of the “righteous” person who is singled out by God as notably different (see my article on that subject here).

In the end, all sins are the same in their effect, but some sins are different in terms of their heinousness. .... [more]

In between the already and the yet to come

We are in the Christian season of Advent. Advent is about waiting — waiting with anticipation. The waiting that anticipated the coming of Messiah and the waiting that anticipates His coming again. From "Why Celebrate Advent?" by Timothy Paul Jones:
.... “The whole creation,” the apostle Paul declared, “has been groaning together for redemption.”

In Advent, Christians embrace the groaning and recognize it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for a divine banquet that Jesus is preparing for us even now. In Advent, the church admits, as poet R.S. Thomas has put it, that “the meaning is in the waiting.” And what we await is a final Advent that is yet to come. Just as the ancient Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the consummation of the good news through the Messiah’s return in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word. ....

Journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once suggested that “all happenings, great and small, are parables by which God speaks. The art of life is to get the message.” Advent reminds us to listen for the message that God is speaking, even in the waiting. [more]

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Aim at Heaven

A friend's post on Facebook sent me looking for the chapter titled "Hope" in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. The first paragraph from the chapter:
Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Puzzles

I enjoy mysteries, thrillers, and tales of espionage, and especially those from the Golden Age. Today I came across a post about a favorite type of story from that era, "the locked room mystery," that Wikipedia defines as:
...a subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime—almost always murder—is committed under circumstances under which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime and/or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene. The crime in question typically involves...no indication as to how the intruder could have entered or left, i.e., a locked room. Following other conventions of classic detective fiction, the reader is normally presented with the puzzle and all of the clues, and is encouraged to solve the mystery before the solution is revealed....
No secret passages or supernatural solutions allowed.

The master of such stories was certainly John Dickson Carr but many mystery authors wrote them (e.g. Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None). The post I found today from The Guardian in 2014 was "The top 10 locked-room mysteries," among which was an Ellery Queen I possess:
The King Is Dead by Ellery Queen (1951)

King Bendigo, a wealthy munitions magnate, has been threatened by his brother Judah, who announces that he will shoot King at midnight at his private island residence. King locks himself in a hermetically sealed office accompanied only by his wife, Karla. Judah is under Ellery Queen's constant observation. At midnight, Judah lifts an empty gun and pulls the trigger and at the same moment, in the sealed room, King falls back, wounded with a bullet. No gun is found anywhere in the sealed room and the bullet that wounds King came from Judah's gun – which didn't actually fire. Good, huh?....

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Finally it isn’t a matter of reason..."

Fifty years ago this December A Man for All Seasons appeared in theaters. In 1967 it won six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Robert Bolt's Thomas More may have differed significantly from the actual man but his version of the man, played by Paul Scofield (who won Best Actor), was thoroughly admirable. George Weigel:
.... Bolt...gave us a different More in his drama and later in his screenplay—a More who “grasps” his death, not as an existential stalwart, a courageously autonomous “Self,” but as a Catholic willing to die for the truth, which has grasped him as the love of God in Christ. Thus, when More’s intellectually gifted daughter Margaret, having failed to argue him out of his refusal to countenance Henry VIII’s divorce and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, plays her final card and cries, “But in reason! Haven’t you done as much as God can reasonably want?,” More replies, haltingly, “Well…finally…it isn’t a matter of reason; finally it’s a matter of love.”

And not love of self, but love of God and love of the truth. For the God who is truth all the way through is also, St. John the Evangelist teaches us, love itself. And to be transformed by that love is to live in the truth—the truth that sets us free in the deepest and noblest meaning of human liberation. ....

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

For food that stays our hunger,
For rest that brings us ease,
For homes where memories linger,
We give our thanks for these.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Certainty sells

From an article summarizing a new Canadian study of church attendance:
.... The authors, Drs. David Haskell, Kevin Flatt and Stephanie Burgoyne, used five years' data gathered from 2,255 attendees of Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Canada parishes across the province of Ontario. ....

Approximately half of the authors' subjects belong to growing parishes within these three mainline denominations, the other half to shrinking ones. Their most striking survey result finds churchgoers at shrinking parishes more doctrinally committed than their ministers. Ministers of shrinking churches are the least likely group to profess faith in the resurrection or in the power of prayer:
When asked to agree or disagree with the statement "Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb" 93% of growing church pastors agreed, 83% of growing church attendees agreed, 67% of declining church attendees agreed, and just 56% of declining church pastors agreed.

When asked if "God performs miracles in answer to prayer" 100% of the growing church pastors agreed, 90% of the growing church attendees agreed, 80% of the declining church attendees agreed, and just 44% of the declining church pastors agreed.
Preaching what the authors call conservative theology—"Protestant Christian beliefs based on a more literal interpretation of the Bible and greater openness to the idea that God intervenes in the world"—necessarily drives devotion, they find. The rewards of a defined faith keep congregants coming back.

"Conservative Protestant doctrine is strongly linked to personal happiness," they find, citing prior research. "Just as a clear map helps us get where we're going faster, groups with a clear, unified mission or purpose tend to out-compete groups with 'foggy' or wide ranging mission and purpose." In matters of the soul, certainty sells.

If evangelicalism in the form of a friendly smile and a "Hey neighbor, have you heard the good news?" gets them through the door, it's doctrine—more than just a sense community—that keeps them inside..... [more]

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Designing men"

Some "guidance from the original conservative," offered by Daniel S. Wiser, Jr. in "Edmund Burke In the Era of Trump":
.... The first rule was to beware of the "power of bad Men." Ambitious men will often take advantage of the virtues of others to seek political power and serve their own interests, rather than the common good. And their attempts to revolutionize the state can result in extremism and violence.

"You will be told, that if a measure is good, what have you [to] do with the Character and views of those who bring it forward," Burke wrote. "But designing Men never separate their Plans from their Interests; and if You assist them in their Schemes, You will find the pretended good in the end thrown aside or perverted, and the interested object alone compassed, and that perhaps thro' Your means." He continued, "All I recommend is, that whenever the sacrifice of any subordinate point of Morality, or of honour, or even of common liberal sentiment and feeling is called for, one ought to be tolerably sure, that the object is worth it. Nothing is good, but in proportion, and with Reference." ....

Madison famously wrote in Federalist No. 10 that, "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." Political movements and leaders come and go. But conservative principles are woven into the fabric of nature; they will endure throughout the vicissitudes of politics and history. As Burke put it,
The principles that guide us in publick and in private, which as they are not of our devising but moulded into the nature and essence of things, will endure with the Sun and Moon, long very long after Whig and Tory, Stuart and Brunswick, and all such miserable Bubbles and playthings of the Hour are vanished from existence, and from memory. My friends and myself may sink into Errors and even into considerable faults; but I trust that these principles will buoy us up again, so that we shall have something to set against our imperfections, and stand with the world at least not as the worst Men or worst Citizens of our day. .... [more]
Edmund Burke In the Era of Trump | The Weekly Standard

Friday, November 18, 2016

"We here highly resolve..."

Abraham Lincoln, on November 19, 1863:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—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.

Avalon Project - Gettysburg Address

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A mind awake

I've been browsing through A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis (1968). The anthologizer was Clyde S. Kilby, an early Lewis scholar and founder of the Wade Center at Wheaton College. I have several collections of CSL quotations. This one was fairly early and is very good. A few selections from the last section of the book, "The Post-Christian World":
We must get rid of our arrogant assumption that it is the masses who can be led by the nose. As far as I can make out, the shoe is on the other foot. The only people who are really the dupes of their favourite newspapers are the intelligentsia. "Private Bates," The Spectator (29 December 1944)

The whole modern estimate of primitive man is based upon that idolatry of artefacts which is a great corporate sin of our own civilisation. We forget that our prehistoric ancestors made all the most useful discoveries, except that of chloroform, which have ever been made. To them we owe language, the family, clothing, the use of fire, the domestication of animals, the wheel, the ship, poetry and agriculture. The Problem of Pain, ch. 5

[Owen Barfield] made short work of what I have called my 'chronological snobbery', the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realisation that our own age is also 'a period', and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those wide-spread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them. Surprised by Joy, ch. 13

One of the most dangerous errors instilled into us by nineteenth-century progressive optimism is the idea that civilization is automatically bound to increase and spread. The lesson of history is the opposite; civilization is a rarity, attained with difficulty and easily lost. The normal state of humanity is barbarism, just as the normal surface of our planet is salt water. Rehabilitations, ch. 4

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dark little hearts

I've learned a lot from Alan Jacobs' books, essays, and posts, and always find what he writes interesting. From "lessons learned":
...[W]hen...academic leftists preached that race and gender were the determinative categories of social analysis, members of the future alt-right were slouching in the back rows of their classrooms, baseball caps pulled down over their eyes, making no external motions but in their dark little hearts twitching with fervent agreement.

Back when people thought that Andrew Ross mattered, I participated in many conversations at Wheaton College about postmodernism, and had to hear many colleagues chortle that things were going to be better for Christians now because “we have a level playing field.” No longer did we have to fear being brought before the bar of Rational Evidence, that hanging judge of the Enlightenment who had sent so many believers to the gallows! You have your constructs and we have our constructs, and who’s to say which are better, right? O brave new world that hath such a sociology of knowledge in it!

To which my reply was always: “Now when they reject you and your work they don't have to defend their decision with an argument.” I knew because I was shopping a book around then, and heard from one peer reviewer that it was well-research and well-written but was also characterized by “underlying evangelical theological propositions.” Rejected without further explanation. As Brian rightly says in his post, "An America where we are all entitled to our own facts is a country where the only difference between cruelty and justice is branding."

Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. It seems that we’ve all now learned the lessons that the academic left taught, and how’s that working out for us? The alt-right/Trumpistas are Caliban to the academic left’s Prospero: “You taught me language, and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse.” ....

Friday, November 11, 2016

November 11


From James D. Hornfischer's reflections on interviewing veterans of World War II:
.... About 1.8 million World War II veterans remain alive today. That's less than half the number of 2003. When these voices go silent, those of us who write about the war will lose the benefit of living engagement. We will work as our Civil War colleagues do: from documents and recordings and nothing else. What will be gone when these are the sole primary sources is not the facts themselves but the spark that can bring them to life. Diaries and oral history transcripts can let us know a man's thoughts and deeds. But truth is also revealed through tone, emotion and context—and it can be plumbed responsively in real time to discover what was most important.

For those of us who have never served in uniform, it's easy to see World War II as a grand, sweeping drama, featuring actors large and small driven by a sense of overriding mission, all sins and failings vindicated by victory. Yet for the veterans I meet, the war is often about something else entirely. Any talk of it brings them back to a single, pervasive memory sequence: a moment of impossible decision or helplessness when, through their action or inaction, they believe, a comrade paid the eternal price. They can't talk about the war without reliving their powerlessness to influence its predations, without revealing how it changed them. ....

Those veterans who stand away from the crowd or shun the opportunity to speak are of special interest to me. The distance in their eyes shows that they're still in the grip of what they've seen. While talking to them can be like trying to squeeze water from a stone, if you stay with it you can tap something deeply revealing. "The thing that comes out of it is, if you survive, there's a purpose," Bud Comet told me. "You see why you survived. I feel like maybe God had other purposes for me." There was nothing trite in the manner of his expression. This was the considered conclusion of years, the product of the horror of survival at sea. .... [more]
From the preface of Bruce Catton's The Army of the Potomac (1962):
...[O]nce, ages ago, they had been everywhere and had seen everything, and nothing that happened to them thereafter meant anything much. All that was real had taken place when they were young; everything after that had simply been a process of waiting for death, which did not frighten them much—they had seen it inflicted in the worst possible way on boys who had not bargained for it, and they had enough of the old-fashioned religion to believe without any question that when they passed over they would simply be rejoining men and ways of living which they had known long ago.

.... A generation grew up in the shadow of a war which, because of its distance, somehow had lost all resemblance to everyday reality. To a generation which knew the war only by hearsay, it seemed that these aged veterans had been privileged to know the greatest experience a man could have. We saw the Civil War, in other words, through the distorting haze of endless Decoration Day reminiscences; to us it was a romantic business because all we ever got a look at was the legend built up through fifty years of peace.

We do learn as we grow older, and eventually I realized that this picture was somewhat out of focus. War, obviously, is the least romantic of all of man's activities, and it contains elements which the veterans do not describe to children.  ....

Yet, in an odd way, the old veterans did leave one correct impression: the notion that as young men they had been caught up by something ever so much larger than themselves and that the war in which they fought did settle something for us—or, incredibly, started something which we ourselves have got to finish. It was not only the biggest experience in their own lives; it was in a way the biggest experience in our life as a nation, and it deserves all of the study it is getting. ....
A Memorial Day Look at the World War II Generation - WSJ.com, Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln's Army, 1962.

Chivalry

"The Necessity of Chivalry" by C.S. Lewis was "published on the 17th August 1940 during the heat and roar of the Battle of Britain - five days after 'Eagleday' (13 August 1940) – the Nazi Luftwaffe’s operation to destroy the Royal Air Force. It was also just three days before Churchill’s famous “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” speech (20 August 1940) concerning heroic British fighter pilots (some 500+ young fighter pilots had been killed in action up to that point)."


I found this today at Brandywine Books. The essay appears in Present Concerns.

The Necessity of Chivalry by C.S. Lewis Doodle

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Finished


Bibliotheca: Finished from Bibliotheca on Vimeo.

This was a Kickstarter project that fell well behind the planned schedule, but it is finished, the books are printed, and the sets will ship in December, i.e. next month. There is still the ability to order a set. A complete set, five volumes, including the Old Testament Apocrypha, in a case, costs $109.00 until November 12. After that the cost will rise. There are options to buy just the New Testament, or only the Old, or to omit the Apocrypha. I assume that this printing will be the only one.

The recent Christianity Today article about the project: "Kickstarter’s Million-Dollar Bible Is Finally Finished."

Poirot

  • Evil never goes unpunished. But the punishment is sometimes secret. (Peril at End House)
  • Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory — let the theory go.  (The Mysterious Affair at Styles)
  • Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely. (The Mysterious Affair at Styles)
  • The past is the father of the present. (Hallowe'en Party)
  • I have made it a rule never to argue with very positive ladies. You comprehend, it is a waste of time. (The Under Dog)
  • Stupidity — it is the sin that is never forgiven and always punished. (Cards on the Table)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Good intentions are not enough

Via Rod Dreher, news of an important victory for religious liberty in Canada. From the National Post:
The Appeal Court of B.C. released a decision in favour of Trinity Western University on Tuesday, describing efforts by B.C.’s law society to deny accreditation to the school’s future lawyers as “unreasonable.”

The legal dispute centres around the university’s community covenant that bans its students from having sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.

In a unanimous decision, a panel of five judges said the negative impact on Trinity Western’s religious freedoms would be severe and far outweigh the minimal effect accreditation would have on gay and lesbian rights.
From the decision:
A society that does not admit of and accommodate differences cannot be a free and democratic society — one in which its citizens are free to think, to disagree, to debate and to challenge the accepted view without fear of reprisal.

This case demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do"

"I do not deal in Absolute Evil... I do not think that at any rate any ‘rational being’ is wholly evil." The line between good and evil "is not just external, between the white chess pieces and the black, but within every single piece on the board." 
(J.R.R. Tolkien as quoted in the Afterward of Proverbs of Middle-earth)

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
(Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Reformation Day

From 2012:

Kevin DeYoung reminds us of one of the most important reasons we are Protestants:
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses concerning clerical abuses and indulgences on the church door at Wittenberg. This famous event is often considered the launching point for the Protestant Reformation.

The chief concern for Luther and the other reformers was the doctrine of justification. ....

There are five key concepts every Protestant should grasp if they are to understanding the reformer’s (and the Bible’s) doctrine of justification.

First, the Christian is simul iustus et peccator. This is Martin Luther’s famous Latin phrase which means “At the same time, justified and a sinner.” The Catechism powerfully reminds us that even though we are right with God, we still violate his commands, feel the sting of conscience, and battle against indwelling sin. On this side of the consummation, we will always be sinning saints, righteous wretches, and on occasion even justified jerks. God does not acquit us of our guilt based upon our works, but because we trust “him who justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5).

Second, our right standing with God is based on an alien righteousness. .... I am not right with God because of my righteousness, but because “the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ” has been credited to me. .... We contribute nothing to our salvation. The name by which every Christian must be called is “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6).

Third, the righteousness of Christ is ours by imputation, not by impartation. That is to say, we are not made holy, or infused with goodness as if we possessed it in ourselves, but rather Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account.

Fourth, we are justified by faith alone. The Catholic Church acknowledged that the Christian was saved by faith; it was the alone part they wouldn’t allow. ...[E]vangelical faith has always held that “all I need to do is accept the gift of God with a believing heart.” True, justifying faith must show itself in good works. That’s what James 2 is all about. But these works serve as corroborating evidence, not as the ground of our justification. We are justified by faith without deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28; Titus 3:5). The gospel is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:30-31), not “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and cooperate with transforming grace and you shall be saved.” There is nothing we contribute to our salvation but our sin, no merit we bring but Christ’s, and nothing necessary for justification except for faith alone.

Finally, with all this talk about the necessity of faith, the Catechism explains that faith is only an instrumental cause in our salvation. .... It is the object of our faith that matters. If you venture out on to a frozen pond, it isn’t your faith that keeps you from crashing into the water. True, it takes faith to step onto the pond, but it’s the object of your faith, the twelve inches of ice, that keeps you safe. Believe in Christ with all your heart, but don’t put your faith in your faith. Your experience of trusting Christ will ebb and flow. So be sure to rest in Jesus Christ and not your faith in him. He alone is the one who died for our sakes and was raised for our justification. Believe this, and you too will be saved. [more]
From Nathan Finn: "Baptists and the Reformation":
...[O]n this Reformation Day, I’m thankful for the Protestant heritage we Baptists enjoy. We stand with Luther and Calvin on justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We stand with the Anabaptists on a believer’s church committed to radical discipleship and confessor’s baptism. We stand with all three of these groups in their commitment to the supreme authority of Scripture. And as good Protestants, we ultimately stand where we stand, not because others stand there as well, but because we believe the Spirit still speaks through His Word to guide Christ’s people on the narrow way.
Five Key Concepts in the Reformation Understanding of Justification – Kevin DeYoung, Baptists and the Reformation

Sunday, October 30, 2016

For all the saints...

Wikipedia notes "Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present"



For all the saints,
who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith
before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus,
be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
The golden evening
brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors
comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of
paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their Rock,
their Fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain
in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness,
their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a
yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant
rise in bright array;
The King of glory
passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion,
fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle,
they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee,
for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds,
from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl
streams in the countless host,
Singing to God,
the Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

No fear

I've posted this several times in years past as Halloween has approached. It contradicts the mythology about Druids:

As Halloween approaches it is useful for the more excitable among us to be reminded that the Evil One has already been defeated. From "Concerning Halloween" by James B. Jordan:
.... "Halloween" is simply a contraction for All Hallows’ Eve. The word "hallow" means "saint," in that "hallow" is just an alternative form of the word "holy" ("hallowed be Thy name"). All Saints’ Day is November 1. It is the celebration of the victory of the saints in union with Christ. The observance of various celebrations of All Saints arose in the late 300s, and these were united and fixed on November 1 in the late 700s. The origin of All Saints Day and of All Saints Eve in Mediterranean Christianity had nothing to do with Celtic Druidism or the Church’s fight against Druidism (assuming there ever even was any such thing as Druidism, which is actually a myth concocted in the 19th century by neo-pagans.) ....

The Biblical day begins in the preceding evening, and thus in the Church calendar, the eve of a day is the actual beginning of the festive day. [emphasis added] Christmas Eve is most familiar to us, but there is also the Vigil of Holy Saturday that precedes Easter Morn. Similarly, All Saints’ Eve precedes All Saints’ Day.

The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: On October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom.

What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us. ....

Similarly, on All Hallows’ Eve (Hallow-Even – Hallow-E’en – Halloween), the custom arose of mocking the demonic realm by dressing children in costumes. Because the power of Satan has been broken once and for all, our children can mock him by dressing up like ghosts, goblins, and witches. The fact that we can dress our children this way shows our supreme confidence in the utter defeat of Satan by Jesus Christ – we have NO FEAR! .... [more]
Biblical Horizons » Concerning Halloween

Friday, October 28, 2016

Something that never happened before

But it seems that something has happened that has never happened
before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God; and this has never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressively backwards?
T.S. Eliot, Choruses from "The Rock"

Trick or treat

The Internet Monk re-posts Michael Spencer's annual "Halloween Rant." I didn't grow up in a fundamentalist church like he did but otherwise my Halloween church experience was very similar to his — we had costume competition in the church basement involving adults as well as children. There was a dark passageway where you were handed things like skinned grapes and were told they were eyeballs. It wasn't remotely anything but perfectly innocent fun. Spencer:
.... I grew up among Southern Baptist fundamentalist Baptists. The KJV-only, women can’t wear pants, twenty verses of “Just As I Am,” Jerry Falwell, Jack Chick, twice a year revival kind of fundamentalist Baptists.

We were serious about things like beer. By sheer quantity of attention in sermons, drinking beer was the most evil act one could describe. We were serious about movies, cards, and something called “mixed bathing,” which normal people would call “swimming.”

We were serious about the Bible, Sunday School, suits and ties, and walking the aisle to get saved.

And we were big time into Halloween.

No, that’s not a typo. I said we were big time into Halloween.

From the late sixties into the early seventies, the churches I attended and worked for—all fundamentalist Baptists—were all over Halloween like ants on jam. It was a major social activity time in every youth group I was part of from elementary school through high school graduation in 1974.

We had haunted houses. Haunted hikes. Scary movies. (All the old Vincent Price duds.) As a youth minister in the mid to late seventies and early eighties, I created some haunted houses in church education buildings that would win stagecraft awards.

The kids loved it. The parents loved it. The pastors approved. The church paid for it! ....

And then, things changed.

Mike Warnke convinced evangelicals that participating in Halloween was worshiping the devil. Later, when we learned that Warnke may have been one of the most skillful of evangelical con-artists, lying about his entire Satanic high priest schtick, the faithful still believed his stories.

Evangelical media began to latch onto Halloween as some form of Satanism or witchcraft, and good Christians were warned that nothing made the other team happier than all those kids going door to door collecting M&Ms.

Evangelical parents decided that their own harmless and fun Halloween experiences were a fluke, and if their kid dressed up as a vampire, he’d probably try to become one. If there was a pumpkin on the porch, you were inviting demons into your home, just like it says in Hezekiah.

A general fear of the occult, manifesting itself in Satanic ritual abuse mythology, crept into evangelicalism and took a deep hold on many churches. ....

Today, if you want to split your church, divide your singles group, get a fight started with parents or see the youth minister fired, just find some way to have an old-fashioned Halloween event in your church. .... [more]
The Internet Monk Annual Halloween Rant | internetmonk.com

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Leo Strauss on C.S. Lewis

I have on several occasions in the past mentioned that C.S. Lewis’s short and elegant book on moral philosophy, The Abolition of Man, could be read as a preface to Leo Strauss’s much more dense Natural Right and History, and further wondered whether these roughly contemporary thinkers were ever aware of one another, despite being in different academic disciplines and in different countries.

Clifford Angel Bates, a pal of mine at the University of Warsaw, passed along this interesting paragraph, taken from page 143 of the transcript of Leo Strauss’s 1962 class on Rousseau at the University of Chicago:
May I mention one point? We don’t have time to read it here: there is a book, or rather a series of lectures by C.S. Lewis, the English author, The Abolition of Man, which is worth reading from every point of view. It is his criticism of social science positivism.... And he calls these men here, in the first lecture, “men without chests,” meaning they admit bodily desires, and they admit reasoning, in a way: namely, how to get the objects of bodily desires. The other things, the values, as they are called, are merely subjective. In other words, there is a lower part of the body, stomach and below, and there is a brain; but there is nothing in between. There is no heart. This is not a bad description of this view of man. I recommend it to your reading. C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York, 1959.
The original publication of the book was in 1943.

The Abolition of Man at Amazon