Sunday, October 31, 2021

All saints

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

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


Today is Reformation Day and tomorrow is All Saints' Day:

Reformation Day is the anniversary of the day Martin Luther issued his challenge to debate his 95 theses—not the beginning of the Reformation but an important point in it. Halloween is actually All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints’ Day. Days were thought of as evening to evening so the eve was the beginning of the next day—think New Year’s Eve or Christmas Eve. Although today most approach it as a secular holiday that wasn’t its origin and for us Protestants all believers are “saints” and All Saints’ Day is when we acknowledge “the great cloud of witnesses” who have passed on. So today we can celebrate both the Protestant Reformation and all those believers who have gone before.

Therefore being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand,
and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:1-2 [KJV]

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Halloween movie

In just a few nights from now I'll once again watch my favorite Halloween movie Arsenic and Old Lace:
...Arsenic and Old Lace is the story of Mortimer Brewster, a famous, wealthy, and well-liked theater critic (the first tip-off that this thing is fiction), who discovers one Halloween night that his entire family is criminally, murderously insane. Until he heads home (to the quaint Brooklyn street where he was raised), on that day, Mortimer (Cary Grant, hyper and muttery) believes that the biggest trouble before him is a nuptial scandal, that he’ll make a mockery of his career by getting married. He’s the author of several bombastic, comical books that decry marriage, entitled things like The Bachelor’s Bible, yet what has he done? Gone and fallen in love with Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), the daughter of the minister who lives across the street from his two adorable spinster aunts, Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha (Jean Adair). Mortimer’s aunts raised him in that house, so Elaine’s really “the girl next door,” of all things—a homey figure that checks the highfalutin city boy persona he has adopted. After they get married in the Manhattan courthouse and duck the paparazzi (again, he’s a theater critic?!), they swing by Brooklyn to say a quick goodbye to their families before heading to Niagara Falls. That’s when Mortimer stumbles upon a dead body stuffed into the window seat of his Aunts’ well-kept parlor.

First he assumes that this is the work of Teddy (John Alexander), his cousin who resides there and believes himself to be Teddy Roosevelt. .... (more)

Arsenic and Old Lace, Frank Capra's "Halloween Tale of Brooklyn," Is the perfect film for the season

Monday, October 25, 2021

A platform for moralizing

From an interesting review of a new biography of Robert E. Lee, Robert E. Lee: A Life, by Allen C. Guelzo. The reviewer is Andrew Ferguson, someone I would read whatever his subject.
.... The dwindling number of die-hards who cling to the myth of the Lost Cause see slavery as contingent to the war, while the much larger number (far and away a majority) see slavery as the only reason the war was fought. Both sides avoid complication because they use history as a platform for moralizing. Robert E. Lee himself appears either as a marble saint or an ogre of staggering villainy. ....

...[F]or Guelzo, Lee’s great offense was not his invidious and (among his peers) universally held ideas about race but an actual, definable, objective crime, and the crime was treason.

Guelzo’s Lee is a man in full: genteel, cruel, loving, intolerant, generous, neither the hero of 19th and 20th century hagiographers nor the figure of unalloyed evil preferred by our contemporaries. But at the heart of the portrait here is the unforgivable crime. ....
Thus did Robert E. Lee," writes Guelzo, "irrevocably, finally, publicly [turn] his back on his service, his flag, and ultimately, his country. All of this was done for the sake of the preservation of a political regime whose acknowledged purpose was the preservation of a system of chattel slavery that he knew to be an evil and for which he felt little affection and whose constitutional basis he dismissed as a fiction…. It would, in the end, cost him nearly everything ….
Guelzo’s judgment of Lee, balanced as it is, should discomfit conservatives no less than liberals, especially anyone on the right willing to gloss over Lee’s crime against our country in favor of his undoubted martial virtues or some magnolia-fragranced image of agrarian heroism. Most impressive of all, Robert E. Lee: A Life injects learning, subtlety, and even compassion into a debate that has more often been characterized by ignorance, simple-mindedness, and sanctimony. .... (more)
Andrew Ferguson, "A Matter of Treason," REVIEW: ‘Robert E. Lee: A Life’ by Allen C. Guelzo

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Living in the past

G.K. Chesterton:
We talk of people living in the past; and it is commonly applied to old people or old-fashioned people. But, in fact, we all live in the past, because there is nothing else to live in. To live in the present is like proposing to sit on a pin. It is too minute, it is too slight a support, it is too uncomfortable a posture, and it is of necessity followed immediately by totally different experiences, analogous to those of jumping up with a yell. To live in the future is a contradiction in terms. The future is dead; in the perfectly definite sense that it is not alive. It has no nature, no form, no feature.... The past can move and excite us, the past can be loved and hated, the past consists largely of lives that can be considered in their completion; that is, literally in the fullness of life.
G.K. Chesterton, Avowals and Denials, 1935.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Colin Powell's “13 Rules To Live By.”

  1. It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls your ego goes with it.
  4.  It can be done. 
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. 
  7. You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things. 
  9. Share credit. 
  10. Remain calm. Be kind. 
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers. 
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Free speech

G.K. Chesterton:
It is not natural or obvious to let a man utter follies and abominations which you believe to be bad for mankind anymore than it is natural or obvious to let a man dig up a part of the public road, or infect half a town with typhoid fever. The theory of free speech, that truth is so much larger and stranger and more many-sided than we know of, that it is very much better at all costs to hear every one's account of it, is a theory which has been justified upon the whole by experiment, but which remains a very daring and even a very surprising theory. It is really one of the great discoveries of the modern time, but once admitted it is a principle that does not merely affect politics, but philosophy, ethics, and finally poetry.
G.K. Chesterton, Robert Browning, 1914.


In "How Churchill Used Shakespeare to Change the World" Churchill himself is quoted:

If you cannot read all your books at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on your shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances.

Saturday, October 16, 2021


Going back:
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be and if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when we do arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

"...That we may hereafter..."

Continuing to reflect on Russell Moore's comments about confession. Two things occur to me. First, that Protestants sometimes think about confession as a Catholic thing. It isn't, of course, confession needn't involve a priest. In fact it should be a part of most prayers. Secondly, personally, as I get older, I am less aware of sins of commission (and that is probably blindness on my part) but increasingly suspicious that I miss noticing my sins of omission. I do pray this every now and then,  from the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare Thou them, O God, who confess their faults. Restore Thou them that are penitent; According to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

"If you can believe In something bigger than yourself"

You can stand alone or with somebody else
Or stand with all of us, together
If you can believe in something bigger than yourself
You can follow the flag forever

They say it's just a dream some dreamers dreamed
That it's an empty thing 
that really has no meaning
They say it's all a lie but it's not a lie
I'm going to follow the flag 'til I die

Into every life a little rain must fall but it's not gonna rain forever
You can rise above—you can rise above it all
We will follow the flag together
We will follow the flag forever

Saturday, October 9, 2021



From "A Thicker Kind of Mere" by Timothy George:
The term “mere Christianity,” of course, was made famous by C.S. Lewis, whose book of that title is among the most influential religious volumes of the past one hundred years. Since 2001, more than 3.5 million copies of Mere Christianity have been sold in English alone, with many more translated into most of the world’s languages....

"Mere Christianity” is actually a phrase Lewis borrowed from the seventeenth-century Puritan divine Richard Baxter. ....

But Baxter’s “mere Christianity” was not “mere” Christianity in the weak, attenuated sense of the word mere. Both Lewis and Baxter used the word mere in what is today—regrettably—an obsolete sense, meaning “nothing less than,” “absolute,” “sure,” “unqualified,” as opposed to today’s weakened sense of “only this,” “nothing more than,” or “such and no more.” Our contemporary meaning of the word mere corresponds to the Latin vix, “barely,” “hardly,” “scarcely,” while the classical, Baxterian usage corresponds to the Latin vere, “truly,” “really,” “indeed.”

Baxter had no use for a substance-less, colorless homogeneity bought at the expense of the true catholic faith. Indeed, he had his own list of non-negotiable fundamentals, including belief in one triune God; in one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, God incarnate; in the Holy Spirit; in the gifts of God present to his covenanted people in baptism and Holy Communion; and in a life of obedience, holiness, and growth in Christ. ....

...[W]hat Baxter and Lewis called a thicker kind of mere—not mere as minimal but mere as central, essential; mere as vere, not vix. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Measured against the ages, ‘mere Christianity’ turns out to be no insipid interdenominational transparency, but something positive, self-consistent, and inexhaustible.” ....

“It is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to each other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre of each there is a something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice.” .... (more)

Thursday, October 7, 2021

"We win by confessing our sins"

From Russell Moore's newsletter "Moore to the Point," today:
...[T]hese followers of Christ think they’re failing. Why? Because they assume “success” means a sort of tranquility, a rest from the awareness of oneself as a sinner, a rest from the need to repent of sin.

As I said to one of them, “What you are expecting is achievable, but you have to be dead first. What you’re expecting is to be something other than a sinner. That will happen, but when it does, you will be in the New Jerusalem in the presence of Christ. If you think you experience it before then, you are actually just finding a way to call your sin something other than sin. And that’s, well, sin.”

What they think is failing is actually just the ordinary Christian life involving the kind of spiritual warfare Jesus taught us to wage—which starts with “our Father” and continues through “forgive us our debts,” all the way through “deliver us from the evil one.” We never get too spiritually “successful” to move to some other way of praying. ....

We win by confessing our sins, claiming the gospel that tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and then fighting for holiness—not so we can prove to Jesus that we are worthy of his love but because Jesus is with us and knows that it takes more repentance, not less, as well as a growing understanding of just how much we need to repent of, for us to be holy. ....

When I hear people wave away their sin and say, “That’s just how I am” or “I’m just human,” I don’t believe they are hearing this from Jesus. And when I hear people despairing of hope because they have to keep fighting and repenting, I don’t believe they are hearing that from Jesus either. Some of us need to take our sin more seriously. And some of us need to receive the gospel more joyfully.

Those who think repentance is failure will eventually give up. But those who recognize the path of repentance and confession and faith as ongoing are those who will see both where the path leads and the One who has been here all along to help us get there. ....
Russell Moore, "Moore to the Point," Oct. 7, 2021.

Worshiping or watching?

C.S. Lewis on worship:
EVERY SERVICE IS a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like it, it "works" best—when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshiping. ....

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question "What on earth is he up to now?" will intrude. It lays one's devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, "I wish they'd remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even Teach my performing dogs new tricks."

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. ....
C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964).

Monday, October 4, 2021


More from Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) on "Means of hope and remedies against despair":
Gather together into your spirit, and its treasure-house the memory, not only all the promises of God, but also the remembrances of experience, and the former senses of the divine favours, that from thence you may argue from times past to the present, and enlarge to the future and to greater blessings. For although the conjectures and expectations of hope are not like the conclusions of faith, yet they are a helmet against the scorchings of despair in temporal things, and an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast, against the fluctuations of the spirit in matters of the soul. St. Bernard reduces to these three the instruments of all our hopes : First, the charity of God adopting us; secondly, the truth of His promises; thirdly, the power of His performance. This was St. Paul's instrument: 'Experience begets hope, and hope maketh not ashamed'.
He offers "A Prayer for a contented spirit":
O Almighty God, Father and Lord of all the creatures, by secret and undiscernible ways bringing good out of evil; give me wisdom from above; teach me to be content in all changes of person and condition, to be temperate in prosperity, and in adversity to be meek, patient, and resigned; and to look through the cloud, in the meantime doing my duty with an unwearied diligence, and an undisturbed resolution, laying up my hopes in heaven and the rewards of holy living, and being strengthened with the spirit of the inner man, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jeremy Taylor, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, 1650.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

"Sufficient to the day..."

Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667):
Enjoy the present, whatsoever it be, and be not solicitous for the future; for if you take your foot from the present standing, and thrust it forward towards to-morrow's event, you are in a restless condition: it is like refusing to quench your present thirst by fearing you shall want drink the next day. If it be well today, it is madness to make the present miserable by fearing it may be ill tomorrow. Let your trouble tarry till its own day comes. Enjoy the blessings of this day, if God sends them, and the evils of it bear patiently and sweetly; for this day is only ours; we are dead to yesterday, and we are not yet born to the morrow. He therefore that enjoys the present if it be good, enjoys as much as is possible. 'Sufficient to the day' (said Christ) 'is the evil thereof': sufficient, but not intolerable. Miserable is he who thrusts his passions forwards, towards future events, and suffers all that he may enjoy to be lost, thinking nothing fit to be enjoyed but that which is not or cannot be had.
Jeremy Taylor, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, 1650.