Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The "Lord's Day"

From a review in Christianity Today of A Brief History of Sunday: From the New Testament to the New Creation:
...González makes a provocative claim: that the argument for naming Sunday the Sabbath day might not be as obvious as we suppose. “Many may be surprised,” he writes, “to learn that connecting Sunday with the fourth commandment [‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’] finds very little warrant in the early church, and that calling Sunday ‘the Sabbath’ is a relatively new phenomenon.”

...González finds that no theological reason seems to have compelled the change. As he observes, “there are very few passages that might seem to claim that the Christian Lord’s Day has taken the place of the Sabbath.” ....

Monday, May 29, 2017

"And some there be..."

Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. .... All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times. There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported. And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them. But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten. With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant. Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes. Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore. The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise.
(The Apocrypha: Sirach 44:1-15 KJV)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day

Red Arrow

The 32d Division was organized under War Dept. orders of 18 July 1917 of National Guard Units from both Wisconsin and Michigan. Units began leaving state camps in Wisconsin and Michigan bound for Camp MacArthur, near Waco, Texas, in early August 1917. The last units arrived at Camp MacArthur by late September 1917.

The Division served on the front line during World War I from 18 May 1918 until the end of the War on 11 November 1918. It was the first American Division to pierce the famed Hindenburg Line, fought in 4 major offensives and earned the name “Les Terribles” from the French.
The 32d Division was the only American division to be bestowed with a nom-de-guerre by an Allied nation during the war.

The colors of all four Infantry Regiments, three Artillery Regiments, and three Machine Gun Battalions were decorated with the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. These were the only National Guard units bestowed with the highest order of the Croix de Guerre during WWI.
The Division served with the Army of Occupation in Germany until 18 April 1919 and began its return to the U.S. on 1 May 1919. ....

On 15 October 1940, the 32d Division, Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard, was again called to Active Duty.

In July of 1941, the 32d Division’s official name was modified to 32d Infantry Division.

In August and September of 1941, the 32d Infantry Division participated in the 'Louisiana Maneuvers,' the greatest peacetime maneuver in the history of the United States Army.

On 22 April 1942, the 32d Infantry Division sailed from San Francisco, bound for the war in the South Pacific. They arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on 14 May 1942.

On 15 September 1942 the first elements of the Division were flown from Australia to Port Moresby, New Guinea.

The 32d Division was the first U.S. Division to fight an offensive action against the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific.

The Division fought in six major engagements in four Campaigns involving 654 days of combat, more than any other American Division during WWII. .... [more]
Wisconsin Brewing, collaborating with the University of Wisconsin  Campus Craft Brewery, produced "Red Arrow Pale Ale" as a tribute on the division's one hundredth anniversary and in time for Memorial Day.
The name honors the Red Arrow Division, a ferocious fighting force largely comprising volunteers from Wisconsin and Michigan that achieved distinction a century ago. According to Wikipedia, “The Division’s shoulder patch, a line shot through with a red arrow, symbolizes the fact that the 32nd Division penetrated every German line of defense that it faced during World War I.”


Posted previously on or near Memorial Day.

From James D. Hornfischer's reflections on interviewing veterans of World War II:
.... About 1.8 million World War II veterans remain alive today (2011). 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 -, Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln's Army, 1962.

Monday, May 22, 2017


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Confer on me a blessed end"

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

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

Bach’s Deathbed Hymn « Mere Inkling

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Read and preached, prayed and sung

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Baptist renewal?

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The delusions of biblical scholars

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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Agreeing to disagree

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

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ignorance is vacuity

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Book of Common Worship (1906)

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dogma matters

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

"Hear what the Lord has done for me."

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

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

I particularly enjoy the last two verses.

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

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

Here are four reasons why having a corporate confession matters:

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

2. It is the shape of Christian living

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

3. It prevents self-righteousness

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

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

4. The Bible models it

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

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

All true delight

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Adolescent insouciance

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day

Before politics took over the day...

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