Monday, September 30, 2019

The mind of God


William Barclay:
We have already seen that in Jesus we have seen the mind of God, and that mind is love. If then we say that the Word was active in creation it means that creation is the product of the mind of God which we see in Jesus Christ. This means that the same love which redeemed us created the world, that love is the principle of creation as love is the principle of redemption. There is a time in life when this may seem simply a theological or philosophical truth; but there is also a time in life when it is the only thing in life left to hold on to. There is a time when life and the world seem quite clearly to be an enemy, when life seems out to break our hearts, to ruin our dreams, and to smash our lives. There comes a time when we seem to be living in a hostile universe. At such a time it is the greatest thing in life, sometimes it is the only thing left, to be able to cling on to the conviction that "life means intensely and it means good." For if we believe that it was this mind of God in Jesus Christ which conceived and created the universe then it does mean that, whatever it feels like, God is working all things together for good, and the world is out not to break us but to make us. If the Christ of creation and the Christ of redemption are one and the same, then there is light even in the darkest hour.

Jesus is the Word. He is God's ultimate and final communication to men; he is the demonstration to men of the mind of God towards them; he is the guarantee that at the heart of creation there is love.
William Barclay, Jesus as They Saw Him, 1962.

The limits of human judgment

John Henry Newman:
Whenever men are able to act at all, there is the chance of extreme and intemperate action; and therefore, when there is exercise of mind, there is the chance of wayward or mistaken exercise. Liberty of thought is in itself a good; but it gives an opening to false liberty. Now by Liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution of the human mind, thought cannot be brought to any successful issue, and therefore is out of place. Among such matters are first principles of whatever kind; and of these the most sacred and momentous are especially to be reckoned the truths of Revelation. Liberalism then is the mistake of subjecting to human judgment those revealed doctrines which are in their nature beyond and independent of it, and of claiming to determine on intrinsic grounds the truth and value of propositions which rest for their reception simply on the eternal authority of the Divine Word.
John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 1864.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Old House of Fear

A book I once owned but lost sometime along the way is about to be re-published. Russell Kirk was important to my political formation but his fiction was just fun. From the announcement at The New Criterion, "Nothing to fear":
While Halloween usually presents the unedifying spectacle of adults behaving like children in ridiculous costumes (something wicked this way comes, indeed), this year, a much-beloved tale of the paranormal will be republished. On October 29, Criterion Books, an imprint of Encounter Books, will release a new edition of Old House of Fear, the first novel by the visionary conservative thinker Russell Kirk, originally published in 1961. Drawing on his time at the University of St Andrews, where he was the first American to earn a doctorate of letters, Kirk sets his story in the Outer Hebrides, where foul dealings are afoot. Most of our readers know Kirk as a conservative lodestar, but Old House of Fear shows a different side of his genius. Bolshevik mystics, Irish republicans, and an enchanting ingénue populate the scene.

To say more would be to spoil the pleasure of reading this ghoulish story from a master of the mystery genre. ....
The book can be purchased here.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


John Bunyan:
Mercy is that by which we are pardoned, even all the falls, faults, failings and weaknesses, that attend us, and that we are incident to, in this our day of temptation: and for this mercy we should pray, and say, "Our Father, forgive us our trespasses." For though mercy is free in the exercise of it to usward, yet God will have us ask, that we may have; as he also saith in the text, "Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy." That is what David means when he says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

And again, "When I say my foot slippeth; Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up."

This then is the conclusion, that as there is mercy to be obtained by us at the throne of grace, for the pardon of all our weaknesses, so there is also grace there to be found that will yet strengthen us more, to all good walking and living before him.
John Bunyan: The Saint's Privilege and Profit (pdf), Heb. 4:16.
Found in Affirmations of God and Man, edited by Edmund Fuller, 1967.

A myth become fact

C.S. Lewis:
I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion—those narrow, unattractive Jews, too blind to the mythical wealth of the Pagan world around them—was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it. And no person was like the Person it depicted; as real, as recognizable, through all that depth of time, as Plato's Socrates or Boswell's Johnson..., yet also numinous, lit by a light from beyond the world, a god. But if a god—we are no longer polytheists—then not a god, but God. Here and here only in all time the myth must become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not "a religion," nor "a philosophy." it is the summing up and actuality of them all.
C.S. Lewis: Surprised by Joy, 1955.

Friday, September 27, 2019

"We meant to be free"

In 1843, a 21-year-old Dartmouth student named Mellen Chamberlain was doing research on the American War for Independence. He had the opportunity to interview a survivor of the initial battles of Lexington and Concord, 91-year-old Captain Levi Preston of Danvers. The young scholar wanted to know the cause behind his involvement with the war.

David Hackett Fischer records their exchange:
“Captain Preston,” he asked, “what made you go to the Concord fight?”

“What did I go for?” the old man replied, subtly rephrasing the historian’s question to drain away its determinism.

The interviewer tried again, “... Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

“I never saw any stamps,” Preston answered, “and I always understood that none were sold.”

“Well, what about the tea tax?”

“Tea tax? I never drank a drop of the stuff. The boys threw it all overboard.”

“I suppose you had been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

“I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’s Psalms, and hymns and the almanacs.”

“Well, then, what was the matter?”

“Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had been free, and we meant to be free always. They didn’t mean we should.”

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater

A few days ago Justin Taylor quoted Robert Alter on "Why Modern Bible Translations Should Stay in the King James Stream." Alter is himself a translator of scripture.
The King James Bible...remains an imposing achievement, has its drawbacks.

But why have English translators in our age fallen so steeply from this grand precedent?

To begin with, I would note a pronounced tendency among them to throw out the beautiful baby with the bathwater. Those companies convened by King James, their modern successors assume, got it altogether wrong.
We must now
start from scratch,
swerve away sharply from all that they did,
treat biblical syntax in an informed way that can speak to modern readers,
represent biblical terms with what we understand to be philological precision according to their shifting contexts,
make things entirely clear for people who want to know what the Bible is really saying.
This impulse is misconceived on two grounds.

First, the Bible itself does not generally exhibit the clarity to which its modern translators aspire: the Hebrew writers reveled in
the proliferation of meanings,
the cultivation of ambiguities,
the playing of one sense of a term against another,
and this richness is erased in the deceptive antiseptic clarity of the modern versions.

The second issue is the historical momentum of the commanding precedent created by the King James Bible. It has been such a powerful presence for four centuries of English readers that a translation of the Bible that proceeds as though it simply didn’t exist becomes hard to read as a version of the Bible that has any literary standing.
The RSV and the ESV are both within the "King James stream." These verses from Psalm 1 illustrate part of what Alter is arguing. Correcting doesn't require having to "throw out the beautiful baby with the bathwater."

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. ....
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ....
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ....

Robert Alter on Why Modern Bible Translations Should Stay in the King James Stream

Friday, September 20, 2019


Some of us find abundant wisdom in the past and blanket foolishness in the present. Others reverse the emphasis. The latter sort have faith in progress. Not scientific or technological progress so much as moral progress – a very dubious assumption. In a nice irony, some of the worst failed ideas generated in the past – Communism, fascism, Freudian psychology – are periodically revived in the present, like the cancer we thought was in remission. I was surprised to learn that the noun presentism dates from as early as 1916, according to the OED, which defines it as “a bias towards the present or present-day attitudes, esp. in the interpretation of history.” In “Fin de Siècle,” a poem in his 1991 collection Between the Chains, Turner Cassity puts it like this: “The way of presentism is to whore the past / For passions of the moment. That is pestilence / Also.” ....

"The vernacular is the real test"

...Aeschliman’s target is the regrettable tendency of scientism — the ideology that exaggerates the role of empirical science in forming our view of the world — to “destroy the vision of man as imago Dei by picturing and perceiving him instead as a creature driven and primarily determined by laws of matter and force.”

And while he is criticizing that scientism, Aeschliman gives us a reading of C.S. Lewis — anchored in Lewis’s minor classic The Abolition of Man (1943) — that shows Lewis to be at once philosophically astute and rhetorically potent. On the point in question — the primacy of ordinary language — Lewis expressed himself with matter-of-fact eloquence: “Any fool can write learned language. The vernacular is the real test.”

.... From whom are we to learn how to speak again? From the “great central tradition” of classical and Christian civilization which is Aeschliman’s second great concern in The Restoration of Man. While he chronicles the spread of scientism since the Enlightenment, he also tells the tale of those who have opposed it every step of the way, from Pascal and Swift in the early years, to Newman and Dostoevsky in the 19th century, to Chesterton, Lewis, and Solzhenitsyn in more recent decades. These were the writers and witnesses who strove to “revive, nourish, and protect the common human reason against specialists and fanatics who would reduce it to sense perception only.” They were the prophets who insisted that science “depends upon philosophy for the validity of its terms and procedures and to guide the uses to which scientific knowledge will be put.” And they were the true philanthropists, who sought to nourish the souls of men and women with something more substantial than what engineers can produce. They wrote satires, poetry, novels, biographies, essays, and even plays, because they knew that “some more popular form than rational argument” would be “necessary to counteract scientific materialism’s more immediately tangible and visible appeals.”

By placing C.S. Lewis within this great tradition, Michael Aeschliman has reminded us that if we would regain our purchase on the true meaning of words, we must have recourse to the very fonts of wisdom, in the works of Augustine and Aristotle, Jane Austen and the Psalms, St. Paul and soon-to-be-saint John Henry Newman. The Restoration of Man is a book marked by tremendous learning worn lightly, deployed vigorously, and offered generously to a generation that has forgotten how to think because it has lost its grip on the meaning of words.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

"A pearl of great price"


Dorothy L. Sayers:
"The Kingdom of Heaven", said the Lord Christ, "is among you." But what, precisely, is the Kingdom of Heaven? You cannot point to existing specimens, saying, "Lo, here!" or "Lo, there!" You can only experience it. But what is it like, so that when we experience it we may recognize it? Well, it is a change, like being born again and re-learning everything from the start. It is secret, living power—like yeast. It is something that grows, like seed. It is precious like buried treasure, like rich pearl, and you have to pay for it. It is a sharp cleavage through the rich jumble of things which life presents: like fish and rubbish in a draw-net, like wheat and tares; like wisdom and folly; and it carries with it a kind of menacing finality; it is new, yet in a sense it was always there—like turning out a cupboard and finding there your own childhood as well as your present self; it makes demands, it is like an invitation to a royal banquet—gratifying, but not to be disregarded, and you have to live up to it; where it is equal, it seems unjust, where it is just it is clearly not equal—as with the single pound, the diverse talents, the labourers in the vineyard, you have what you bargained for; it knows no compromise between an uncalculating mercy and a terrible justice—like the unmerciful servant, you get what you give; it is helpless in your hands like the King's Son, but if you slay it, it will judge you; it was from the foundations of the world; it is to come; it is here and now; it is within you. It is recorded that the multitude sometimes failed to understand.
The Poetry of Search and the Poetry of Statement, Victor Gollanz, London, 1963.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

More invigorated

Patrick Kurp notes that "Dr. Johnson was born on this date, Sept. 18, in 1709."

One of Samuel Johnson's prayers sixty years later:

LMIGHTY and most merciful Father, who hast continued my life from year to year, grant that by longer life I may become less desirous of sinful pleasures, and more careful of eternal happiness. As age comes upon me let my mind be more withdrawn from vanity and folly, more enlightened with the knowledge of Thy will, and more invigorated with resolution to obey it. O Lord, calm my thoughts, direct my desires, and fortify my purposes. If it shall please Thee give quiet to my latter days, and so support me with Thy grace that I may die in Thy favour for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


...[W]ords are never merely words but are the means by which we make sense of things. If we have fewer words we have fewer tools with which to think and with which to reason. We are left not merely speechless in the presence of reality but thoughtless. This is why our Anglo-Saxon ancestors were wise when they spoke of each person’s “word-horde.” The more words we possess in our personal “horde” the wealthier and healthier we will be. The knowledge of each word is something which personally enriches the one who possesses it. Words empower us, whereas the absence of words impoverishes us and leaves us powerless to make sense of who we are and where we fit into reality. They are the means of exchange with which we express an understanding of ourselves and the cosmos to ourselves and to others. Without such a means of exchange we isolate ourselves from reality and alienate ourselves from others. We are left bemused and confused in the presence of things that we have no way of understanding because we have no way of expressing what they are to ourselves and others. ....

Saturday, September 14, 2019

"Humanely rather than instrumentally"

In the Wall Street Journal, for those who love Jane Austin, a good reason:
.... Lapses in civility happen in Jane Austen’s novels, but they then become an index to the perpetrator’s capacity for empathy. In Emma, the heroine’s rudeness to Miss Bates is represented as a form of cruelty that she comes to regret deeply. Mr. Elton, in the same novel, is rude to Harriet Smith, but without the ability to care that he has hurt her. The difference between these two reactions reflects the difference in these characters’ moral nature. ....

In Austen, good manners are also a conduit for learning about another person in a careful and deliberate way. Particularly for a single man and woman who are first becoming acquainted with one another, this keeps expectations in check until there is sufficient information to draw a conclusion. ....

The word “manners” sounds prissy and old-fashioned to contemporary ears. But Austen presents it as the need to treat others humanely rather than instrumentally. It is the outward, formal expression of respect for others—whether one knows them well, slightly, or not at all. ....

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Not an uncertain mercy

From Onsi Kamel in First Things, "Catholicism Made Me Protestant":
.... I will never forget the moment when, like Luther five hundred years earlier, I discovered justification by faith alone through union with Christ. I was sitting in my dorm room by myself. I had been assigned Luther’s Explanations of the Ninety-Five ­Theses, and I expected to find it facile. A year or two prior, I had decided that Trent was right about justification: It was entirely a gift of grace consisting of the gradual perfecting of the soul by faith and works—God instigating and me cooperating. For years, I had attempted to live out this model of justification. I had gone to Mass regularly, prayed the rosary with friends, fasted frequently, read the Scriptures daily, prayed earnestly, and sought advice from spiritual directors. I had begun this arduous cooperation with God’s grace full of hope; by the time I sat in that dorm room alone, I was distraught and demoralized. I had learned just how wretched a sinner I was: No good work was unsullied by pride, no repentance unaccompanied by expectations of future sin, no love free from selfishness.

In this state, I picked up my copy of that arch-heretic Luther and read his explanation of Thesis 37: “Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.” With these words, Luther transformed my understanding of justification: Every Christian possesses Christ, and to possess Christ is to possess all of Christ’s righteousness, life, and merits. Christ had joined me to himself.

I had “put on Christ” in baptism and, by faith through the work of the Spirit, all things were mine, and I was Christ’s, and Christ was God’s (Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 3:21–23). His was not an uncertain mercy; his was not a grace of parts, which one hoped would become a whole; his was not a salvation to be attained, as though it were not already also a present possession. At that moment, the joy of my salvation poured into my soul. I wept and showed forth God’s praise. I had finally discovered the true ground and power of Protestantism: “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song 2:16).

Monday, September 9, 2019


Re-posted from 2009. Things have only deteriorated further since then.

David Brooks goes "In Search of Dignity" and laments the loss of standards of behavior that were still common in my father's generation:
When George Washington was a young man, he copied out a list of 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Some of the rules in his list dealt with the niceties of going to a dinner party or meeting somebody on the street.

“Lean not upon anyone,” was one of the rules. “Read no letter, books or papers in company,” was another. “If any one come to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up,” was a third.

But, as the biographer Richard Brookhiser has noted, these rules, which Washington derived from a 16th-century guidebook, were not just etiquette tips. They were designed to improve inner morals by shaping the outward man. Washington took them very seriously. He worked hard to follow them. Throughout his life, he remained acutely conscious of his own rectitude.

In so doing, he turned himself into a new kind of hero. He wasn’t primarily a military hero or a political hero. As the historian Gordon Wood has written, “Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.”

Washington absorbed, and later came to personify what you might call the dignity code. The code was based on the same premise as the nation’s Constitution — that human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.

The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm. ....

The old dignity code has not survived modern life. The costs of its demise are there for all to see. Every week there are new scandals featuring people who simply do not know how to act. ....

Americans still admire dignity. But the word has become unmoored from any larger set of rules or ethical system. ....
Manners are of more importance than laws.
The law can touch us here and there, now and then.
Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase,
barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform,
insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Waiting in hope

Yesterday our pastor's sermon was about the hope we have and the patience required as we wait. That reminded me of Ben Patterson's Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent, and so I re-post this from "The Epilog" of that book:
Does it strike you as odd that a book on waiting has scarcely mentioned the word patience? Or perseverance? Aren't those the virtues that we are to exercise when we are forced to wait? They are, but they are secondary to what really is needed to wait with grace. More basic than patience or perseverance are humility and hope. These two are the attitudes, the visions of life, that make patience possible. Patience is a rare and lovely flower that grows only in the soil of humility and hope.

Humility makes patience possible because it shows us our proper place in the universe. God is God, we are his creatures; he is the King, we are his subjects; he is master, we are his servants. We have no demands to make, no rights to assert. I can be impatient only if I think that whatever it is I want is being withheld or delayed unfairly. As Chuck Swindoll put it, "God is not in your appointment book; you're in his." His superiority is not only in power and authority, it is in love and wisdom as well. He has the right to do whatever he wants to do, whenever he wants to do it, but he also has the love to desire what is best for all his creatures and the wisdom to know what is best. He is superior to us in every conceivable way—in power and love and wisdom. To know that is to be patient.

Hope makes patience possible because it gives us the confidence that our wait is not in vain. Hope believes that this God of love, power and wisdom is on our side. It exults in the knowledge that, in the delays of life, he knows exactly what he is doing. If he moves quickly, it is for our good; if he moves slowly, it is for our good. No matter how things look to us, God is the complete master of the situation. There is an old theological word for this—providence. The venerable Heidelberg Catechism defines God's providence as:
The Almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were, by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
There are no accidents, no glitches with God. He does all things well. Everything that comes to us comes by his hand and through his heart. He provides for our needs and fulfills our deepest desires in the fullness of time, not a moment too late, nor a second too soon. Hope assures us that in all things, even in the delays of life, God is working for our good. To know that is to be patient.

One of the surprise "goods" that God is working for us as we wait is the forging of our character. What we become as we wait is at least as important as the thing we wait for. To wait in hope is not just to pass the time until the wait is over. It is to see the time passing as part of the process God is using to make us into the people he created us to be. Job emerges from his wait dazzled and transformed. Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai becomes Sarah.

Hope invites us to look at our waitings from the grand perspective of God's eternal purposes. In fact to be a believer is, by definition, to be one who waits. When Jesus won his victory over sin and death, he ascended into heaven, promising one day to return. We Christians wait for that return, poised between the times, in the "already, but not yet." We look back to his victory and strain forward to see its consummation.

The apostle Paul says the pain of our waiting is like the waiting of childbirth. It is the tension and groaning of labor (Rom 8:22-25). I attended my wife in the births of each of our four children. One thing struck me as odd about each event: that the time when she was required to exert her greatest effort and push the baby out was the time when she was least able. She was exhausted from hours of labor and now she was to summon all her strength and push. How could she? Hope made it possible: the hope of giving birth to the child. When human strength was gone, something beyond the purely human took over and gave her the strength she needed.

The Bible said it would be this way for those who hope in God. "Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Is 40:31). Likewise for our Lord Jesus and his cross, "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb 12:2-3).

My wish is that we might gain the humility and hope to not grow weary and lose heart. I hope that you and I might be able to say, with full hearts, what Henrietta Mears said near the end of her life. This wonderfully eccentric and indefatigable saint accomplished great things for God in her life. When asked if there was anything she would have done differently, had she her life to live over, she said without hesitation, "I would trust God more."
Ben Patterson, Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent, 1989, pp. 167-170.
Though the fig tree do not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation. 
(Hab 3:17–18)

Friday, September 6, 2019

"Salt is salt"

I'm pretty limited as a cook. There are a few things I do well but since I'm almost always cooking for myself I like to keep things easy and quick. For some years now I've been buying my spices online, first from Penzey's and then, after learning some of the backstory, from The Spice House. Their offerings are similar and their family origins are too. I recently acquired on spice: advice, wisdom, and history with a grain of saltiness by Caitlin Penzey Moog. As a member of that family she was immersed in the subject from a very early age. The book is very informative. I've learned a lot. I won't use most of that knowledge but then that's true of much I know. Something I did learn and do use from the first chapter: 
My grandfather had a mantra: "salt is salt." What he meant was that salt can be broken down into many groupings, but such distinctions hardly matter. The broad categories are rock salt, kosher salt, and the color salts: gray sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, Hawaiian red salt, etc. These are different, but when it comes to salting your food, well, they're all just salt. It's an adage that's served me well when it comes to the seduction of the small batch, the rare, the expensive. Luckily with salt, it doesn't matter if you buy the processed stuff off the grocery store shelf or are able to procure a pinch of brown salt from Japan, where only 600 pounds are mined every year. The expensive salts will not make your food taste any better than the cheap salts. Salt is salt.

My favorite salt is among the cheapest: kosher salt. Growing up, my family used little else. Though it is traditionally used for preparing kosher foods, the salt itself is not necessarily kosher. Rather, nearly all salt is kosher and may be religiously certified as such (check the box), but not all "kosher salt," of the distinctive size and shape, has been certified. It's not the color or origin or religious affiliation that makes salt culinarily different, but the surface area.

The differences can be understood through the example of ice, snow, and rain. A grain of rock salt is like a chunk of ice: it falls on a surface and dissolves very slowly. Kosher salt, on the other hand, is like a snowflake: it lands on the surface and immediately dissipates, spreading out to cover more ground. Table salt is like smaller pieces of ice, or a hard rain. It falls in tiny bits, bouncing around the food and into cracks and crevices like rain in a gutter. That's why kosher salt is preferred for salting foods at the table: it covers more surface and melts more evenly. My dad, a chef, also likes it for the thick texture, which makes it easy to pinch and disperse. ....
I've been buying kosher salt since I read this.

on spice: advice, wisdom, and history with a grain of saltiness

Thursday, September 5, 2019

"Smarter than we thought we were"

Joseph Pearce on why C.S. Lewis is so convincing to many of us:
Some time ago, during an interview, I was asked to encapsulate, in a solitary word, the genius of C.S. Lewis. After a moment’s thought, I gave my answer. “Clarity,” I said. “The one word that encapsulates Lewis is ‘clarity.’”

Today, considering the reply I had given, I still think that this one word captures the genius of Lewis. He had an uncanny ability to explain the most abstract points of philosophy and theology with a succinct brilliance. He could make the most difficult of philosophical or theological questions utterly comprehensible to the average reader, regardless of his reader’s lack of formal training in philosophy or theology. It’s not that he makes us smarter than we are, though he does, it’s that he makes us see that we were smarter than we thought we were. There is no reason, for example, for anyone, after reading Lewis, to feel that metaphysics is beyond his grasp. The easy didacticism with which Lewis unlocks and unpacks the central doctrines of the Christian faith in a book such as Mere Christianity is a case in point.

Lewis teaches us with such a natural and unassuming skill that we almost don’t realize that we are being taught at all. He makes the truth seem so obvious and so inescapable that we feel that we must already have known what he shows us, and that we must always have known it, at least subconsciously. We feel that Lewis is simply reminding us of what we already knew, even though, when we think about it honestly, we know that we had been too blind in the past to see the obvious truth which is now staring us in the face. .... (more)

Monday, September 2, 2019

Labor Day

On this Labor Day, I re-post part of a 1942 address by Dorothy L. Sayers: "Why Work?" (pdf):
I HAVE already, on a previous occasion, spoken at some length on the subject of Work and Vocation. What I urged then was a thorough-going revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon—not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God's image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing. ....

It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred. Christian people, and particularly perhaps the Christian clergy, must get it firmly into their heads that when a man or woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true a vocation as though he or she were called to specifically religious work. .... It is not right for her to acquiesce in the notion that a man's life is divided into the time he spends on his work and the time he spends in serving God. He must be able to serve God in his work, and the work itself must be accepted and respected as the medium of divine creation. ....

Where we have become confused is in mixing up the ends to which our work is put with the way in which the work is done. The end of the work will be decided by our religious outlook: as we are so we make. It is the business of religion to make us Christian people, and then our work will naturally be turned to Christian ends, because our work is the expression of ourselves. But the way in which the work is done is governed by no sanction except the good of the work itself; and religion has no direct connexion with that, except to insist that the workman should be free to do his work well according to its own integrity. ....
Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos?" Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1949, pp. 46-62.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Four Loves

Some time ago I posted a video of a "CSLewisDoodle" about "Bulverism." I've discovered that there are many such videos at the CSLewisDoodle - YouTube site. Each consists of a reading of an essay or chapter by Lewis illustrated by "doodling" on a blackboard. They are very well done. Each must have taken a great deal of time to do. Below are the ones for The Four Loves. In this case we hear CSL's own voice from the radio broadcasts. Not many of those survived as they usually were recorded over.

CSLewisDoodle - YouTube