Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Clearer Picture

Reflective images in other's pools
Do not the true form know.
Stay your course and person keep;
When waters still with time,
They a clearer picture show.

--Deanna McIntyre

These are the words of my mother, and, no, she is not dead, as are most I quote. Our life, our worth, our meaning, our purpose are not hidden in the opinions of men. They are hidden and preserved in Christ. Now we see through a glass dimly, or reflective waters if you will. Soon, we shall behold the face of Christ and be changed to be like Him. Then, and only then, will the question "Why?" finally be answered utterly and completely. Meaning will course through our souls as blood once coursed through our veins. The longing in our spirit will be fulfilled. We will find what we have been looking for. We will be at peace.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Underestimating Your Adversary

"There is a God."

--Anthony Flew

I recently read Dr. Flew's book, entitled as the quote above. To be clear, Flew is not a Christian. He does not claim to be. He is a sort of deist, I suppose, or, perhaps, a theistic agnostic. The book is not so much a series of compelling arguments for the existence of a supreme Mind, but more of an autobiography of his "conversion." It recounts the circumstances and basic ideas that caused him to change his mind. Many in the atheist camp are quite upset at this apostasy, although I really do not understand why. The fact that Dr. Flew is a theist does not, in and of itself, mean anything in reference to the merits of the debate or the truth of the matter of theism. One could just as easily produce former theists that have defected the ranks of the faithful. However, I think the reaction reveals a fundamental problem at the heart of the current debate, which is a lack of respect on the part of the atheists for their theist counterparts, a lack of respect that is, from my experience, not often reciprocated. When you read "new atheists," you get the impression that believing in a Supreme Mind or Being is like believing in unicorns, fairies, and pixie dust. Only a complete dolt could be a theist, after all. This is so manifestly absurd it is nothing more than annoying. I am no prophet, but I think this prejudicial, arrogant attitude will be the ultimate downfall of the "new atheist" movement. The God question will not go away. It never will. There will always be good arguments for theism which will be held by extremely intelligent and accomplished scholars. The atheists may argue that they do not find these arguments compelling, but their condescending dismissal of theism and their belligerent antipathy toward their theist colleagues simply will not stand the test of time. Underestimating your adversary is a fundamental strategic and tactical error that rarely produces the results desired. Of course, as a minister/theologian, I run into this often. Someone will claim that I may as well believe in Santa Clause. This is understandable when it is uttered by an ignorant amateur who has not even begun to consider the profound philosophical questions he claims to have resolved. It is inexcusable in academia or among thoughtful people.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I Wish They Were Self-Evident

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

--From The Declaration of Independence

Along with many Americans, I love the Declaration of Independence. However, I must admit, and have come to discover only recently, that there is a fundamental flaw in the crucial sentence quoted above. The truths, namely, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the nature of governmental power as being derived from the consent of the governed, and the right of revolution are, alas, not self-evident. It almost sounds treasonous to say that, but I think if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit the truth. A self-evident proposition is one which needs no additional evidence to support its factuality. For instance, the statement 2 + 2 = 4 is self-evident. This does not mean that is it obvious. The statement may appear obvious, it may even be obvious, but not all self-evident statements are obvious. A complex mathematical equation, if true and properly executed, is self-evident, but it is by no means obvious or easily understood, especially to one mathematically challenged, such as myself. We must ask ourselves, is it really self-evident that men are created with specific rights? Is it really self-evident that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed? Is it really self- evident that the people have a right to violent revolt when governments become destructive to the stated ends? Do those who disagree, and there are many, have some sort of serious malfunction in their grasp of logic and reality? Of course not. Obviously, many of the British did not see all of these things as self-evident in the least, yet I suspect no one would consider them a rag tag lot of intellectual dolts. The fact is these propositions are not self-evident. They are reasonable propositions based on arguments from other propositions, entailing such notions as the existence of a personal Creator, the fundamental goodness of that Creator, the willingness of that Creator to endow His rational, created beings with definable rights, the greater ontological status of the divinely created individual over the artificial, humanly created, collective institution, and many others. One could argue that all, most, many, or some of these notions are self-evident, but, even if so, the self-evidential nature is not necessarily commuted to derived deductions. The fact is the Declaration propositions are the product of a long, historical development of political science, with direct, profound, and necessary influence from certain religious and philosophical presuppositions and assertions. Interestingly, many do not know that the term “self-evident” was not what Jefferson originally penned. Originally, he claimed that such rights were “sacred and undeniable.” In my humble opinion, the young American Congress should have stuck with the original. The propositions are not self-evident, but they are sacred, for they are derived from the principles of true religion. They are undeniable, not because they are self-evident, but because they are based on higher principles of natural law, divine revelation, and even pragmatic desires, which cannot be denied without wreaking havoc within the human condition. Now, my patient reader may be beginning to wonder where I am going with this, that is, what is my point. Well, I am glad you asked. My point is not to deny the objective existence of the rights in question, for I do believe them to be sacred and undeniable. My point is to remind us that our ideals do not stand in a theological and philosophical vacuum. One does not have to hold to any specific theological or philosophical principles, at least not directly, to realize that 2 + 2 = 4. However, one does have to hold to certain theological, philosophical, and even anthropological principles to believe in such a thing as unalienable human rights. I wish such rights were self-evident, for then it would be highly unlikely that they would be trampled upon by even remotely reasonable people. But, alas, it is not so simple and easy. If the supporting principles are eroded, the ideals, the rights, will erode as well. If the intellectual underpinnings and buttresses are removed, the ideals will fall like a building without a foundation. Many today fancy that they can throw out what they perceive to be the bathwater and keep the baby. Unfortunately for them, the analogy does not hold, for the principles they would eschew are not to our American ideals as used bathwater is to a clean baby. The principles are to our American ideals as the womb is to the fetus.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Die Religion Die?

I'll testify!
It’s time to see religion die!
The truth can’t lie!
It’s time to see religion die!
Who cares? Who's right?
It’s time to see religion die!
I'll crush the fight!
It’s time to see religion die!

--Brian "Head" Welch from the song "Die Religion Die"

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:

“ When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”

(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

--St. Paul (Ephesians 4:7-16)

The expressly ecclesiological passage of Scripture quoted above and the excerpt from Brian Welch's rather angry song seem to clash violently. Brian "Head" Welch is a former member of the rock band Korn who recently converted to Christianity. Now, I certainly do not call into question the validity of his conversion, for it is not my place to judge his experience and his status in the eyes of God. I consider him a brother in Christ, as long as he maintains his profession of faith. Nevertheless, I cannot help but conclude that he is woefully immature, spiritually speaking. One may object that he is simply condemning hypocrisy, which may be true. Who would argue with that? In fact, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and admit that this is probably his intention. However, the glaringly obvious problem is "hypocrisy" and "religion" are not synonymous terms. Religion is a word that, when applied to Christianity, describes its organized nature. The Scriptures clearly and unambiguously reveal that Christ came to establish an organized religion, complete with structure, identified, official leadership, meaning, vision, and purpose. We often hear specious, pseudo-pious pronouncements in our culture such as, "I hate religion. I just love Jesus." Unfortunately for those who adhere to this confession, whatever their intentions, they just cannot have it both ways. To hate "religion" or organized Christianity is to hate the Body of Christ. It is to hate the actual fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ while claiming to love the God whose image they bear, while claiming to love some sort of invisible ideal. The same God who commands us to love Him and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40) also commands us not to forsake the assembly of the saints (Hebrews 10:25). The same Christ all Christians claim to love identifies Himself so intimately with His organized church that it is referred to as His bride. Indeed, as His body, it contains His members, His people, His children, His servants, His sheep, His friends, His beloved. To call for the death of organized Christianity is to call for the death of Christianity itself, at least the kind of Christianity founded on the apostles and prophets. It is to issue a death warrant for the bride of the King of kings, and to call for her head on a platter. There will always be pretending impostors who claim to be children of the bride, among which are hypocrisy, self righteousness, petty moralism, and downright stupidity. If we want to place them before the firing squad, so be it. But, let us set our sites carefully, lest we take aim at the mother herself.


Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Sight of the Martyr

For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: "Come to the Father." I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world I want only God's bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed from the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

--St. Ignatius of Antioch

When one begins to understand Christianity, truly to understand it, one is awestruck by the theme of love that permeates every aspect of its teaching and way of life. This theme of love is too often abused and classified by well meaning theologians as some sort of spineless, unmanly, ungodly, tolerant acquiescence to the way of destruction and lies. This turns our religion into little more than a 60's hippy song, and we start to wonder if it the true prophet of the faith should be John Lennon rather than Jesus Christ. In fact, the love which permeates Christianity is a love of truth, a love of righteousness, a love, in short, of God. This love seems purest in the heart of the martyr. Of course, there is nothing new or unique about one prepared to die for one's religion. In fact, we see horrible examples of this disposition everyday on the news, as fanatical terrorists enter their eternal state after leaving death and destruction in their wake. Eastern mystics will literally starve themselves to death as they seek nothingness, emptiness, and a complete loss of self. Yet, the Christian martyr is far different. The Christian martyr seeks not celestial virgins, obliteration of consciousness, or any such thing. He seeks love, divine love, a love that, while present in the state of the flesh, is somehow obscured and hidden by earthly desires. When once that fundamental, primary, and primal desire for survival is surrendered, the martyr often sees in full that which we only see in part. He attains to a state that is for us a dream. Calling to mind the experience of St. Stephen, it is as if their faith has already become sight.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ants Without a Queen

Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.

--Proverbs 6:6-8

I have always been morbidly fascinated by ants. I had a number of Ant Farms when I was a child. My second eldest son recently acquired one for his birthday, and it probably brings more joy to his father than it does to him. They slave away above the refrigerator, day by day, digging tunnels, constantly on the move, always diligent, and rarely resting. Of course, in the wild, the ant's sole purpose is to ensure the survival and expansion of the colony. The life of the collective is the end and the means to the end. Though the purpose is self-contained, cyclical, and temporal, there is a certain charm to it. Moreover, their greater purpose is to glorify God's incomprehensible attention to detail and the intricacies of His profound wisdom. Now, the captured ant in the Ant Farm is something else entirely. There is no queen, no propagation of the species, no means of continued survival. These ants will dig their tunnels and die. There is no purpose, it is all utterly futile, yet, as we all know, ants are too stupid to realize this. You never see one of these little gals throw up their antennae, say "What is the point...the horror, the HORROR!" and remove their head from their thorax with their sharp mandibles. After all, if I were one of them, that is what I would do. In my rather warped mind, with my tongue in my cheek, I could not help but draw an analogy between these poor creatures and the modern nihilist. Within their philosophical framework, the nihilist is like a captured ant with no queen, no objective ideal. They slave away through life in their artificial, self-created, unnatural prison, they dig their tunnels, as it were, yet there is no point, no meaning, no purpose. Of course, with an ant, it is humorous and charming. With a human, it is sad and tragic, for we are creatures who are painfully able to comprehend futility and the horror of the absence of meaning. Thus, though I may wonder why the ant does not just end it all, I wonder more about the nihilist. Thank God for intellectual inconsistency, I suppose, for it is a most merciful gift to the unbeliever.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inconvenient Ideals

"In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.”

-- Paul Harvey

I was saddened to hear that Paul Harvey died today. I have often enjoyed his commentary and his wit. After I heard, I searched for a quote on which to springboard a post and stumbled upon this gem. Though obvious, it is said as only Mr. Harvey could say it.

We would do well to remember this simple truth as we continue to see our economic system unravel. It is not the first time, neither will it be the last time that such a thing has occurred. Although I am as concerned as anyone else about the economics, especially families surviving layoffs and retirees watching their IRAs dwindle to nothing, I am far more concerned about something that took me, I must admit, completely by surprise. Those of us who indulge in philosophical musing, and, perhaps naively, marry our musings to current events, often speak of American pragmatism. However, over the past few months, it has finally dawned upon my rather slow mind that pragmatism is the heart and soul of our culture. It comes as naturally to the American as barking does to a dog. When hard times befall us, we are willing to drop our ideals and ideology faster than a hot coal. "We have to do something", we are told, even if doing "something" means flushing our national heritage as despised refuse. We are told this is not a time for ideals, it is a time for solutions. Again, to the American, this sounds patently obvious, almost axiomatic. Yet, as we slow down, step back, and take a deep breath, I wonder how the integrity of a nation can be preserved if ideals are not upheld during difficult circumstances. After all, free speech, for instance, must be protected only when the speech in question is not to our liking. Popular speech needs no protection. Subversive speech does. Or, as another example, the principle of the free exercise of religion can only be considered a moral, political ideal if it applies to religious practices which cause us a bit of angst. Tame, polite religion and the religion of the majority need no protection. This is likewise true of our idealistic heritage of small, extremely limited government. It is when times are tough, when it looks like we need a savior, when the baser part of our nature calls for the state to come to our rescue, that we must hold our ground, shod our feet, and withstand the onslaughts of misfortune. That is simply the natural cost of liberty. If we are going to be a free people, then we must be willing to be a people that will weather storms by our faith, our ingenuity, our spirit, and our resolve. If we, as a people, run to the shelter of the state, we may be a bit warmer and drier, for a time, but we will all be lesser men for it. Many years ago, a man named Esau sold his divine inheritance for a pot of porridge. He was hungry after all. What good would a blessing do to fill his stomach? Blessings are just words, just ideas, they don't solve any real problems. Of course, what he didn't bother to understand was the "useless" blessing was the most precious spiritual treasure of the ancient world. For all time, he is remembered in Judaism and Christianity for his profoundly ignorant foolishness. I cannot help but wonder if Esau was really an American born in the wrong century and the wrong continent.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Scribbling on a Cell Wall

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.

-- C.S. Lewis

One of the hardest lessons to learn in life is that we are not the center of reality. We cannot define the terms. We cannot define the limits. We cannot shape things as we see fit. The determination of that which is true and that which is false has nothing whatsoever to do with our subjective opinion. We fancy ourselves judges of the divine, islands unto ourselves, captains of our own destiny. Yet, in reality, we will stand before the throne of God and give an account of ourselves to Him. He will judge us in accordance with His good pleasure and deal with us as He sees fit. Our opinions will mean nothing. Our objections will mean nothing. Though many will go into eternity weeping and gnashing their teeth in rebellion against the Divine, it will mean nothing. Their situation will not change, for all are under the complete, total control of the Living God. Like a man thrown into the sea with an anvil securely tied to his feet, so will many follow the will of God to their destruction. In the end, we will all glorify God. If we build our house upon the rock that is Christ, we will glorify the mercy of God, for our foundation is solid and will withstand the storm of light. If we do not, we will glorify the justice of God, for the rock that is Christ will crush our house to powder. Most think they can choose an alternative of their own making. That is, most think they can live independently of God, forging their own eternal path. Such is folly and a chasing after the wind. Whatever man may imagine in his heart, there is no eternal Plan C. We can scribble nonsense on the wall of our cells for centuries on end, but in the cell, we will remain. Many will complain that God is, therefore, harsh. He is not harsh. He is true. He is immutable. He is to the rebellious as reality is to the insane.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Power of an Idea

Inspired by the return to the blogosphere of a friend of mine, and fellow minister, over at Wheat and Chaff, I have returned to Dead Men's Voices. I apologize for my absence.

Neither man or nation can exist without a sublime idea.

-Fyodor Dostoevsky

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

-Saint Paul (Romans 10:17)

The quote from Dostoevsky seems intuitively obvious to the reflective mind. However, I often wonder how many people actually have a sublime idea by which they live their lives, a sublime idea that allows them to transcend the mundane and soar like a falcon on the winds of truth. But many would doubt the practicality of ideas and prefer to find meaning in the things of the world, the material that makes up the physical universe. Pragmatism, though an ideal itself, has, ironically, convinced many modern men that the realm of the ideal is useless at best, if not utterly illusive and deceptive. Unfortunately, the church is not exempt from this philosophy. In fact, it is arguable that many members of the modern church, at least in the more affluent western nations are the most thorough pragmatists. After all, the complete unbeliever falls back on pragmatism by default, for if reality is bound within the confines of nature and the material, it would make perfect sense to seek that which works in the material world, to foster that which allows one to manipulate material by material, thereby gaining the materialistic end desired. If there is nothing eternal, at least nothing eternal that has anything to do with the temporal life of man, then let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. In the church, however, pragmatism takes on a different persona, a nature much more destructive and contrary to the supposed end desired. Admittedly, it baffles the mind how one can presume to grasp the eternal by means of the pragmatic, how one can apprehend God by the manipulation of matter. One is forced to ask the question: How do we apprehend God? Do we apprehend Him by sight? I would hope not. If one did, I would call into question his sanity. Do we apprehend Him by experience? Again, I hope not, for if we do we more likely worship a figment of our own imagination, a god of our own making, a god which works in accordance with our earthly agenda. The Holy Scriptures reveal that we apprehend God by faith. They also reveal that faith comes not by sight, not by experience, but by hearing, and that by the Word of God. Thus, in essence, I ask again, how do we apprehend God? Yes, I think the light is dawning upon your mind.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Agnus Dei

O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us Thy peace.

--The Agnus Dei

Dona Nobis Pacem. There probably is no simpler or more beautiful prayer in all the world. In the first two verses, we beat our breasts in shame. In the last verse, we raise our eyes to heaven with joyful anticipation. Without your mercy, O Lord, I am lost. Without your peace, O Lord, I am broken. This ancient prayer represents Christianity in its basic form. It is the prayer of sinners, yet the prayer of the redeemed. It is the prayer of the brokenhearted, yet the prayer of those made whole. It is the prayer of those once dead in trespasses and sin, yet the prayer of eternal life. Have mercy, O Lamb of God, have mercy, and grant us your everlasting peace. If these were the last words to pass my lips of clay, I would die safely and content in the love of Christ.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Changing Wine Into Water

For our times are not satisfied with faith and not even with the miracle of changing water into wine--they "go right on," changing wine into water.

--Soren Kierkegaard

There is a lot of folly in Kierkegaard's writings. However, there are also many nuggets of truth if one has eyes to see. The times have really not changed as much as we often think. As it was in Kierkegaard's time, the Gospel is offensive. Its call to radical commitment is unseemly. Its talk of heaven and hell is embarrassing. Its references to blood sacrifices, divine wrath, absolute exclusivity, and so many more "barbaric" notions are unacceptable to the modern or postmodern palate. For all of our vaunted interest in the supernatural, we really do not like it when we see it, when it confronts us, when it calls us to action. We prefer a natural religion, one which fits nicely and conveniently into our mental categories, one which we can meld into our daily exercise routine, one which improves our self image, one which causes us to feel warm and cozy, one which leaves us lethargically and comfortably in our sin and materialistic, pathetic groping for a meaning that mysteriously, inevitably, incessantly alludes us. We don't want the message from heaven to be broadcast upon the earth. We would much prefer to bind heaven in words of human folly. We want the bland, the benign, the non-intrusive, the innocuous. Yet, it is that message from heaven, that truth, which gives us life, that truth which is the lifeblood of our spiritual nature, causing us to rise above the mundane circumstances around us and behold the brightness of divine glory. If we would but once submit and partake of that cup, that heavenly wine, we would taste of enlightenment, freedom, and peace. We would drink the jars to the dregs.

Ah, but there is a catch. Once this wine is tasted, nothing in this world will satisfy again. Once tasted, the bland waters of worldly pleasures, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, will no longer quench our thirst, for we live as if suspended between two worlds. Once eternity is implanted in the soul, it leaves a longing in the heart, an aching of the soul, that will not be fulfilled until we behold the face of Christ. So, drink the cup of the grace of Christ in a hunger and thirst for righteousness, partake of the draught of life, receive its eternal blessings, but be forewarned--it has a bite to it.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Boyish Boundaries

Of course what we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man. Now, the chances are strong that he won't be much of a man unless he is a good deal of a boy. He must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig. He must work hard and play hard. He must be clean-minded and clean-lived, and able to hold his own under all circumstances and against all comers. It is only on these conditions that he will grow into the kind of American man of whom America can be really proud.

--Theodore Roosevelt

There is much talk these days about bullies and their supposed detrimental effect on the psyche into adulthood. It is a problem today, granted, but it is certainly not as if the problem is new. In fact, it has existed for time immemorial. I have always been relatively thin and small in stature, although, I pefer the term "medium-built." As a result, I was subject to some bullying as a child. I would take quite a bit of verbal abuse, but when it came to physical contact, there was no compromise. In years past, many bullies have felt the imprint of my knuckles upon their unexpecting cheeks and modestly spilled their blood as a result of my natural inclination toward self defense. Admittedly, I did not win every fight in which I engaged as a child, but I can fairly say that I never had to repeat one. One of my children recently had the unfortunate experience of being bullied. He asked what he should do if a bully called him names. I said he should ignore him. He then asked what he should do if a bully hits him. Through my mind flashed the faces of the forgotten bullies of forgotten days, the schoolyard confrontations, the satisfaction of a good throwing of the hands and the closure that it brings. I smiled with a boyish grin and said "Hit him back."

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Medicine that Does Not Heal

It is true, brethren, as you well know, that in our day it is common for people to say, “Emphasizing doctrine so much only harms and hinders the kingdom of God, yes, even destroys it.” Many say, “Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to Christ.” But all who speak in this way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first and foremost with the doctrine, and to demand of them that they should rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls.

--C. F. W. Walther

I have never quite understood the antipathy for doctrine so prevalent in many modern, evangelical circles. The only way I can explain it is to assume that the "Gospel" in these circles is not about truth. It is solely about existential encounter. It is not about marriage or covenant. It is about a one night stand, a romance that is not meant to last, built upon sensations rather than solemn vows. I suppose I do not understand it, fundamentally, because I know what I need as a religious person, as a sinner, as an otherwise lost soul. I do not need gentle, pale Jesus, meek, and mild to make me feel better about my misery. I do not want to feel better about my misery. I want to be saved from it. I do not need a celestial buddy, and I most certainly do not need or wish to have a boyfriend to whom I can sing sentimental love songs. I need a loving Priest, a Savior, a Redeemer who is willing and able to save me from my sins, to save me from the judgment that surely awaits me, to intercede on my behalf before an all knowing and perfectly just God. I need a wise Prophet who deposits truth, tangible truth, communicable truth, in the context of a historical movement, which is the only vehicle able to protect this treasure over the shifting sands of time. I need a clarion call of reality, ringing like a pure note even amid the chaotic, ear piercing clanging that is worldly speculation. I need a manly, heroic, fell, and powerful King who is able to command respect and bring all things to their proper place and end, a King who is over all natural and moral law, while being Himself subject to nothing and no one. Anything less than this is a chasing after the wind. It may feel good, but, like romance, it is here today and gone tomorrow, a vapor.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Horizon Ever Before Us

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

--Will Durant

Will Durant is a wonderfully enjoyable philosophical character. I especially appreciate the humility he acquired toward the end of his life. Although he never regained his Christianity, he did assume a great deal of respect for it and repudiated his earlier hubris. Thus, I think he really believed what he is quoted as saying above. After all, it is true. The more we learn, the more we seek to buttress our own philosophy through erudition, the more we realize that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our imaginations, more things than we can comprehend, more nuances and difficulties simultaneously narrowing and widening the path of enlightenment. The horizon is ever before us and never overtaken. We reach a cleft in the mountain for respite only to find that the summit is still out of reach. Perhaps this is why knowledge will pass away when the end of all things is upon us. Perhaps this is why perfection of knowledge is ultimately found not in books but in the face of the Living Christ.

Honor, Liberty, Truth!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Bells Are Silenced, Glory Be to God!

I
Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
II
Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
III
Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now- now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!
IV
Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

--Edgar Allan Poe, "The Bells"

Life is about time, if nothing else. There is a time for merriment and laughter. There is a time for great joy and expectation. There is a time for dread and alarm. There is a time for death and the end of all things. This is fact. Yet, though it is fact, it does not follow that we should like it. I, for one, hate death. It should not be and should never have been. When the apostle mockingly proclaims "Oh Death, where is thy sting? Oh Grave, where is thy victory?" my heart joins the derision and rings forth with resounding, jubulant laughter. Christ is risen! Death has been slain! It is conquered! Damn the laughing and the scorning of the bells!

And you too can hear the bells--
Cursed bells!
In your heart of solitude, pure terror surely swells!
By your lonely bed at night,
In the darkness without light,
As you breathe in your despair an horrid moan!
Every day that passes,
(They roll in endless masses)--
Monotone.
Oh the mistakes, and the regrets,
A true repentant heart besets,
Were it stone.
But their pealing, pealing, pealing,
Like a deep, incessant drone,
Succeed well in this their sealing
In our hearts a hopeless groan.
Thus they discharge with no reprieve
A rotten emptiness they leave--
Damn them all:
Damn their clatter and their clang
As they bang, bang, bang,
Bang
Those wicked, evil bells!
Of our ruin each foretells
Damn the clanging of the bells,
Sounding spiritual death knells;
Sounding death, death, death,
With each issue of their breath,
Damn, the sneering of the bells
Of the bells:
Sounding death, death, death,
With each issue of their breath
Damn the jeering of the bells
Of the bells, bells, bells—
Damn the laughing of the bells;
Sounding death, death, death!
And their knells, knells, knells,
With each vomit of their breath,
Damn the mocking of the bells
Of the bells, bells, bells:
Damn the hatred of the bells
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells--
Bells, bells, bells—
Damn the scoffing and the scorning of the bells.