Monday, March 29, 2021

1662 BCP

Just received in the mail from InterVarsity Press, The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition. I came to order it after reading this by Alan Jacobs, author of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography:
What they have done is something deceptively simple, with only a few elements:
  1. Take the 1662 Prayer Book;
  2. Replace the prayers for the British monarchy with more general prayers for political leaders;
  3. Replace a few terms that have become wholly archaic or have changed in meaning so much that they will not be understood;
  4. Add a brief glossary for the unusual terms that it would have been unwise to replace;
  5. Present the result in beautiful typography. 
That’s it! The distinctive structure of the 1662 BCP — built around the rhythms of Morning and Evening Prayer, following the changing seasons of the church year, and centering always on Coverdale’s Psalter — remains, and it remains because it can’t be bettered.
It is attractive, cloth-bound in green, compact, and with a red ribbon.

I haven't had time to examine it thoroughly but as I was opening it properly I came across the collects for today: 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

"A disposition of reverence"

From a review of poet Dana Gioia's recently published memoir:
.... Today the word “piety” is used to describe hollow and sentimental shows of belief. In its ancient and proper sense, however, piety is a noble thing, a disposition of reverence toward those to whom we owe gratitude. The pious man worships God, serves his country, and honors his mother and father. He remembers the dead. “To name is to know and remember,” Gioia writes in one of his finest poems, and here he repeats the refrain: “Oblivion can do its work elsewhere. Remembrance is our métier. After all, our Muse is the daughter of Memory.”
Matthew Schmitz, "Dana Gioia’s Timeless Piety"

Saturday, March 27, 2021

"Obedience is not legalism"

Browsing through previous posts on this blog I came across this and I like it very much.
.... I have never yet met a parent who complained that his child was a legalist because he obeyed too much. In fact, it would be impossible for any parent to imagine how his child could obey too much.

Yet, find a Christian who is careful to obey God in everything, and we won’t have to look far to find another Christian to call him a legalist. What do we make of this?

It’s a word we all hate, but exactly what is legalism? Legalism is that attempt to establish or maintain a right standing with God by means of our own efforts. .... Anyone claiming to be Christian knows better than that, but even among believers there is sometimes found that attempt to maintain a right standing with God by means of personal efforts. They seem to think that having been saved by grace they must maintain that salvation by works. Legalism. ....

But we must be careful not to confuse legalism with obedience. Obedience is not legalism. Obedience is obedience. God commands us to obey his Word, and when pressed with those commands we must not cry foul—“legalism!” No, disobedience is sin, and obedience is not legalism. ....

Simply put, we needn’t fear that we may obey our Lord too much. Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey him.

Happily, God has promised in the New Covenant to give us a heart to obey him. And every true Christian has found that obedience to God is not a burdensome thing. This is the work of his Spirit within us to bring us to obey him—not legalistically but faithfully. .... (more)
Legalism or Obedience?- Credo Magazine

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"To bind one's self to one man..."

Samuel Johnson, August 15, 1773, in Edinburgh, on the wisdom of committing oneself to a political party:
I CAN see that a man may do right to stick to a party; that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars, it may be wrong. He takes its faggot [bundle] of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks to be sure; and they cannot well be separated. But, to bind one's self to one man, or one set of men (who may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow), without any general preference of system, I must disapprove.
James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, L.L.D.

Friday, March 19, 2021

"Them that die'll be the lucky ones."

Last night I watched once again my favorite film adaptation of Treasure Island (1990). There have been quite a few. I've seen many of them and have four in my collection of DVDs (including one I very much dislike — not sure why I still have it). This is the best because it is the one that follows Stevenson's story most faithfully and is superbly executed. The cast is great: a teenage Christian Bale is Jim Hawkins, Blind Pew is played by Christopher Lee, Billy Bones by Oliver Reed, and Charlton Heston is Long John Silver, also Pete Postlethwaite and others well cast. The director was Heston's son which may explain how so much talent came to be in this version. The soundtrack is performed by The Chieftains. The ship used for the Hispaniola was originally built as the HMS Bounty for the version of The Mutiny on the Bounty filmed in 1962. The DVD can be purchased right now for less than ten dollars at Amazon or streaming from Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"You’re fer or agin"

From a Jay Nordlinger post today:
In recent years, people have liked to describe themselves, and others, as “post-liberals.” I find this term puzzling. As I see it, they are anti-liberals, or illiberals. Such people, we have always had with us, and always will. In fact, they constitute the vast majority of mankind.

Liberalism — meaning, classical liberalism, rather than, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — has no “pre-” and no “post-.” It has friends and enemies. (A relative handful of the former, teeming multitudes of the latter.) You can no more be “post-liberal” than you can be post-freedom, or post–human rights.

I mean, you are or you aren’t. You’re fer or agin.

In a discussion of this topic last week, a reader drew my attention to a speech by Calvin Coolidge. The president was speaking on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in the summer of 1926. I’d like to quote a big ol’ chunk, and I don’t think you will be sorry.
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
Well said, Cal. They called him “silent,” but when he spoke — it was worth it.
Jay Nordlinger, "Bad words, good words, etc," NRO, Mar. 17, 2021.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Theology is like a map

From "Book Four" of Mere Christianity:
.... I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the RA.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, "I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!"

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

...Theology is like the map. .... Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. .... For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. .... (more)
C.S. Lewis, "Beyond Personality: Or First Steps In The Doctrine Of The Trinity," Mere Christianity.

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Peggy Noonan on "Why We Care About the Royal Family Feud":
.... Why should an American care about any of this? I suppose we shouldn’t. In a practical way we’re interested in the royal family because we don’t have one, don’t want one, and think it’s great that you do. We get the benefits—the pictures of clothes and castles, the horses and military outfits, the stories of backstairs and love affairs—and you pay the bills.

But I think there’s something deeper, more mystical in our interest, a sense that however messy the monarchy, it embodies a nation, the one we long ago came from and broke with. The high purpose of monarchy is to lend its mystique and authority to the ideas of stability and continuance.

Henry VIII, Mad King George, Victoria—these names still echo. It is rare and wonderful when you can say of a small old woman entering a large reception area, “England has entered the room.” Someday Elizabeth II will leave us and the world will honestly mourn, not only because of what she represented but because she was old-style. She performed but wasn’t performative. She was appropriately, heroically contained, didn’t share her emotions because after all it wasn’t about her, it was about a kingdom, united. You could rely on her to love her country and commonwealth; she was born and raised to love them. And so she has been for the world a constant. And in this world, a constant is a valuable thing. ....
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, "Why We Care About the Royal Family Feud," March 11, 2021.


One of the essays collected in Dorothy L. Sayers' Creed or Chaos (1949) is "The Other Six Deadly Sins" (an address delivered on October 23rd, 1941 at Caxton Hall, Westminster). Early on the Church defined "seven deadly sins" along with "seven heavenly virtues." The virtues were Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility. The sins are Lust, Gluttony, Greed or Avarice, Laziness or Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

Sayers on the deadliest of the deadly sins, "Pride":
But the head and origin of all sin is the basic sin of Superbia or Pride. In one way there is so much to say about Pride that one might speak of it for a week and not have done. Yet in another way, all there is to be said about it can be said in a single sentence. It is the sin of trying to be as God. It is the sin which proclaims that Man can produce out of his own wits, and his own impulses and his own imagination the standards by which he lives: that Man is fitted to be his own judge. It is Pride which turns man’s virtues into deadly sins, by causing each self-sufficient virtue to issue in its own opposite, and as a grotesque and horrible travesty of itself. The name under which Pride walks the world at this moment is the Perfectibility of Man, or the doctrine of Progress; and its specialty is the making of blueprints for Utopia and establishing the Kingdom of Man on earth.

For the devilish strategy of Pride is that it attacks us, not on our weak points, but on our strong. It is preeminently the sin of the noble mind—that corruptio optimi which works more evil in the world than all the deliberate vices. Because we do not recognize pride when we see it, we stand aghast to see the havoc wrought by the triumphs of human idealism. We meant well, we thought we were succeeding—and look what has come of our efforts! There is a proverb which says that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. We usually take it as referring to intentions that have been weakly abandoned; but it has a deeper and much subtler meaning. That road is paved with good intentions strongly and obstinately pursued, until they become self-sufficing ends in themselves and deified.  ....

The Greeks feared above all things the state of mind they called hubris—the inflated spirits that come with over-much success. Overweening in men called forth, they thought, the envy of the gods. Their theology may seem to us a little unworthy, but with the phenomenon itself and its effects they were only too well acquainted. Christianity, with a more rational theology, traces hubris back to the root-sin of Pride, which places man instead of God at the center of gravity and so throws the whole structure of things into the ruin called Judgment. Whenever we say, whether in the personal, political or social sphere,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul
we are committing the sin of Pride; and the higher the goal at which we aim; the more far-reaching will be the subsequent disaster. That is why we ought to distrust all those high ambitions and lofty ideals which make the well-being of humanity their ultimate end. Man cannot make himself happy by serving himself—not even when he calls self-service the service of the community; for “the community” in that context is only an extension of his own ego. Human happiness is a by-product, thrown off in man’s service of God....

Cursed be he that trusteth in man,” says Reinhold Niebuhr (Beyond Tragedy) “even if he be pious man or, perhaps, particularly if he be pious man.” For the besetting temptation of the pious man is to become the proud man: “He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves 
that they were righteous, and despised others. (Luke 18:9)

Dorothy L. Sayers', "The Other Six Deadly Sins," Creed or Chaos (1949)

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Word, rightly proclaimed

I haven't been physically in a congregational gathered worship service since about this time last year. I yearn to be, but best not in the kind of service described below. In his TGC blog Justin Taylor quotes from a 9Marks book, Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People, from a chapter comparing two orders of worship. One of them:
.... It’s a common evangelical liturgy. It begins with an energetic gathering song. Next, a pastor welcomes the church and invites everyone to greet those sitting nearby. He then offers a brief prayer asking God to bless the meeting. After that, the band leads a “set” of three praise songs, often in a sequence moving from an upbeat song about God, to a medium-tempo song reflecting on what God has done, and concluding with a slow song of adoration to God. The worship leader closes the set in prayer, echoing the words of the previous song. A video clip introduces the theme of the sermon. The pastor then steps up to a bar table, reads a text of Scripture, delivers his message, and prays. He invites the congregation to sing a closing song, after which he gives a benediction. The band launches into the chorus of the final song as folks get up and leave their seats. ....

First, this service—presumably unintentionally—divides worship through song and worship through sermon. In fact, folks who attend services like this all too often describe the singing as the worship, as if the other parts of the service aren’t also part of how we glorify God. The structure reinforces this misunderstanding. There’s a staging change (from music stands to bar stool and table) and a video clip as a sort of liturgical buffer between the singing section and the sermon section, making them feel separate and disconnected.

Second, this liturgy begins with us speaking to God in song followed by him speaking to us. That order is confusing. God first reveals himself to us by his Word. As we saw earlier, God works in and through us in corporate worship. He empowers our response to him. So, although this service may be designed to appear casual and approachable, it ironically asks too much of congregants. It expects them to be ready to jump into energetic songs of praise without hearing a reminder of who God is and what he has done for us in Christ.

Third, this order of service leaves two of the most essential elements of corporate worship out to dry: prayer and Scripture reading. There is no other Scripture reading in the service, aside from what the pastor might read in his sermon. And the prayers serve as transitions, not as substantive elements of worship in their own right.

Fourth, aside from within the set of songs, the service doesn’t develop any broader narrative or theme. There’s no sense of movement from considering God’s character to praise, or from hearing God’s law to confession, or from meditating on the gospel to thanksgiving. ....

Look at the structure of your church’s most recent gathering. What is the “story” that it tells through the arrangement of the various elements? Is it a story worth instilling in your congregation, week after week? .... (more)
Justin Taylor, "A Tale of Two Liturgies," TGC.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Thy will be done

Fom Tim Keller's "Growing My Faith in the Face of Death" (all of which is very much worth reading):
I have spent a good part of my life talking with people about the role of faith in the face of imminent death. Since I became an ordained Presbyterian minister in 1975, I have sat at countless bedsides, and occasionally even watched someone take their final breath. I recently wrote a small book, On Death, relating a lot of what I say to people in such times. But when, a little more than a month after that book was published, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I was still caught unprepared. ....

One of the first things I learned was that religious faith does not automatically provide solace in times of crisis. A belief in God and an afterlife does not become spontaneously comforting and existentially strengthening. Despite my rational, conscious acknowledgment that I would die someday, the shattering reality of a fatal diagnosis provoked a remarkably strong psychological denial of mortality. Instead of acting on Dylan Thomas’s advice to “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” I found myself thinking, What? No! I can’t die. That happens to others, but not to me. When I said these outrageous words out loud, I realized that this delusion had been the actual operating principle of my heart. ....

When I got my cancer diagnosis, I had to look not only at my professed beliefs, which align with historical Protestant orthodoxy, but also at my actual understanding of God. Had it been shaped by my culture? Had I been slipping unconsciously into the supposition that God lived for me rather than I for him, that life should go well for me, that I knew better than God does how things should go? The answer was yes—to some degree. I found that to embrace God’s greatness, to say “Thy will be done,” was painful at first and then, perhaps counterintuitively, profoundly liberating. To assume that God is as small and finite as we are may feel freeing—but it offers no remedy for anger. ....

Any God I make up will be less troubling and offensive, to be sure, but then how can such a God contradict me when my heart says that there’s no hope, or that I’m worthless? The Psalms show me a God maddening in his complexity, but this difficult deity comes across as a real being, not one any human would have conjured. Through the Psalms, I grew in confidence that I was before “him with whom we have to do.” .... (read it all)
Timothy Keller, "Growing My Faith in the Face of Death," The Atlantic, March 7, 2021.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

A comedy

In "The Muddled Message of 'Hillbilly Elegy'" Hannah Long argues that it would have been a better film if it had more humor. In the course of her argument she uses one of my favorite movies:
The protagonist of the 1941 comedy Sullivan’s Travels is an earnest comedy director named John L. Sullivan. One day, Sullivan announces that he’s going to make a socially important film. It will be a film that has Something to Say, a meditation on labor and capital and dignity!

“But with a little sex?” his producer urges.

“A little,” Sullivan concedes, adding primly, “but I don’t want to stress it.”

But Sullivan has a problem. He lives in a mansion in Beverly Hills and doesn’t have the remotest idea what “hard luck” is. Guilt-stricken at his lack of victimhood, Sully dons a hokey “hobo” costume and hits the road with nothing but his wits, a small bundle of provisions, and the ability to—at any time—call on his network of friends to prevent him from suffering any real harm. Still wrapped in his invisible privileges, he declares, “I’m not coming back until I know what real trouble is.” ....

Self-awareness is key. Sullivan’s Travels approaches its subject with an awareness of its own limitations as a Hollywood production. Poor Sullivan is Hollywood poking fun at its own pretensions. In a clever piece of casting, writer-director Preston Sturges cast Joel McCrea as Sullivan. McCrea was a lanky everyman who exudes earnest good will, so we laugh with him instead of at him. Every five minutes on his sociological expedition Sully finds himself in another scrape, be it accidentally becoming a “kept man” and having to shimmy down a knotted bedsheet to escape (only to lose his grip and plunge into a conveniently placed water barrel) or asking with perfectly innocent idiocy two hobos’ how they “feel about the labor situation.”

A key lesson that the film teaches is that comedy usually delights ordinary audiences even more than ponderous message pictures—but the film also implicitly makes the case that comedy can sometimes do a better job of delivering a message than Important Social Dramas because it can take itself lightly. The medium was the message—Sullivan’s Travels is as funny as it is insightful. ....
Hannah Long, "The Muddled Message of 'Hillbilly Elegy'," The Dispatch.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Our common humanity

I just signed up with FAIR: The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism based both on their expressed principles and the credibility to me of their board of advisors. They seem to me to have things just right.

Describing what they are about:
Increasingly, American institutions — colleges and universities, businesses, government, the media and even our children’s schools — are enforcing a cynical and intolerant orthodoxy. This orthodoxy requires us to view each other based on immutable characteristics like skin color, gender and sexual orientation. It pits us against one another, and diminishes what it means to be human.

Today, almost 70 years after Brown v. Board of Education ushered in the Civil Rights Movement, there is an urgent need to reaffirm and advance its core principles. To insist on our common humanity. To demand that we are each entitled to equality under the law. To bring about a world in which we are all judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin.
And "What We Stand For":
  • We defend civil liberties and rights guaranteed to each individual, including freedom of speech and expression, equal protection under the law, and the right to personal privacy.
  • We advocate for individuals who are threatened or persecuted for speech, or who are held to a different set of rules for language or conduct based on their skin color, ancestry, or other immutable characteristics.
  • We support respectful disagreement. We believe bad ideas are best confronted with good ideas — and never with dehumanization, de-platforming or blacklisting.
  • We believe that objective truth exists, that it is discoverable, and that scientific research must be untainted by any political agenda.
  • We are pro-human, and promote compassionate anti-racism rooted in dignity and our common humanity.

The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism

"We must not be enemies"

Patrick Kurp writes about Lincoln's strengths as a writer beginning by quoting from his first inaugural address, delivered one hundred sixty years ago today:
.... I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Anecdotal Evidence: 'The Lesson of Terseness and Strength'