Book of the Month/April 2015

The mind of G.K. Chesterton was a field of corn. Not only was he a prolific source of thoughts, each one a stalk of corn, but each one of them contained hundreds of kernels, each of them capable of multiplying as well. He didn’t just write a lot — he was fruitful.Christian Imagination

He was at his most fruitful when he talked about the arts and imagination because that is where he was discussing the center of his power as a writer. And in this book, Thomas Peters brings together a delightful set of observations from Chesterton on the arts, and competently discusses them himself. If you love Chesterton, if you want to write with effect, if you are fond of inexplicable explanations, or all of the above and more, then this is a book you must have.

Gems from Chesterton on the imagination and its failures are found throughout the book. If you are involved in this arena at all, then this book is indispensable. It is probably indispensable regardless.

“Towers are not tall unless we look up at them; and giants are not giants unless they are larger than we. All this gigantesque imagination, which is, perhaps, the mightiest of the pleasures of man, is at bottom entirely humble” (p. 71).

“I am not depreciating telephones; I am complaining that they are not appreciated. I am not attacking inventions; I am attacking indifference to inventions . . . I am not objecting to the statement that the science of the modern world is wonderful; I am only objecting to the modern world because it does not wonder at it” (p. 57).

On critics, here is Peters summarizing Chesterton.

“Concerning the critics, G.K. had a great deal to say, but his observations can be divided into four general issues: their bias against morality in the arts, their unreflecting progressivism, their incessantly negative orientation, and their propensity to faddishness” (p. 71).

Boy, things sure have changed since Chesterton’s time!

Virtue as Team Sport

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #187

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (1 Cor. 15:33–34).

The word rendered here as communications is homilia, which in other translations is rendered as company. Bad or evil company corrupts good customs, morals, or habits. The word there for manners is ethos. Another way of putting this is that moral stupidity is contagious, and that a person is more vulnerable to such contagion in crowds. He who walks with the wise will be wise, and a companion of fools will be destroyed (Prov. 13:20). Practical virtue is a team sport. So is vice.

Paul begins his exhortation on this point with a reminder not to “be deceived.” It is very easy for us to think that our character is more impervious to outside influence than it actually is. We like to think that we can navigate the rapids of foolish company, but it turns out that our high end kayak of personal integrity is actually a leaky and cumbersome canoe.

So then wake up to righteousness, and stop sinning. Whether this admonition is obeyed or not will be seen by which crowd a person heads for—the wise or the foolish one. To head toward the people who do not know God is a demonstration that the person doing it does not know God either, and that the whole thing is shameful. Professing Christians who do this, like some of the Corinthians, need to be ashamed.

Ickybod

Usually Jonah Goldberg talks good sense, but yesterday I heard him defending the Indiana law as nothing more than a pitiful little consolation prize for the religious right. He was saying that the same sex mirage juggernaut has carried the day, and all conservatives are asking for now is the right to be left alone. I want to explain why this is not the case. I want to provide a theological explanation on why this is not what is happening at all.

For those of you who check this site regularly in order to get your daily dose of whimsy, that mild, unassuming form of humor that I use to put a smile on your face, and a politically-correct spring in your step, I am afraid that today might be a little different. Usually I write with high levels of restraint, but I am afraid that we are now in a position where I cannot explain what is happening without getting into what is actually happening.

First, opponents of same sex mirage have often failed to recognize that rebellion against God’s order for marriage can fail on multiple levels, and not just one. In other words, homosex is not just immoral, as opposed to moral. It is not just disgusting, as opposed to alluring. It is not just kinky, as opposed to straight. All observations along those lines would be correct, but they do not explain why the current battleground is made up of florist shops, bakeries, and photography studios. That is what I wish to explain.

Homosexual sex is not just a sinful abomination, although it does remain that. But in addition to the sinfulness, it is also lame. God’s design for faithful marriage is glory, and to pair up a couple of guys is inglorious, and a couple of girls is just plain sad.

The sin of our age is egalitarianism, wherein we release the hounds of leveling, and declare war on everything that might adorn anything. We have done this to heterosexuality first through feminism, confounding equality before the law with equality as sameness. Pointing to the latter, De Tocqueville put it this way almost a couple centuries ago: “Attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded, and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and disorderly women” (p. 211). We started by employing feminism to turn first rate women into third rate men, and recently we have found ourselves turning third rate women into fifth rate men. And we are rapidly approaching the nadir, where a woman’s highest achievement will be considered as matching the worst behavior of male slobs everywhere.Make_Me_Sandwich

I am reluctant to use ridiculous examples because we live in a day when satire is dead, and I am hesitant to give anybody any ideas. But the example, for all its absurdity, is exactly where we are right now. Suppose, in our ongoing egalitarian battle against lookism, the Supreme Court mandated a heavyweight division in the Miss America contest, with sumo wrestling replacing the swimsuit competition. Suppose Indiana declined to send any of their three-hundred pounders to the national competition because it was “just stupid,” and we were dealing with the resultant national outcry.

When something really lame is receiving public honors in a parade down Main Street, there will have to be a lot of policemen around with billy clubs, in order to silence those snorting in the crowd gathered along the sidewalk. The emperor has no clothes, and so the empire is weighing in with the full majesty of the law to prevent anyone from acknowledging the obvious. The reason for the bedlam is this — they cannot afford the accurate observation.

Homosexual mirage is sinful, yes, but it also lame. It has no glory.

Christian marriage, by way of contrast, is glorious, because the woman is the glory of the man. When you have two men, there is no crown. When you have two women, there is no head for the crown to rest on.

[Concerning 1 Cor. 11:1-16 and Is. 4:5] “The NKJV translates it this way: ‘For over all the glory there will be a covering.’ This is what Paul is referring to — a godly wife is to her husband what the Shekinah glory was to the tabernacle. Now this is how it all ties in with our foundational theology of marriage, and what we believe marriage actually is. The Bible teaches that a woman is the glory of her husband. She is his crown: ‘A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband’ (Prov. 12:4a). And a man does not walk down the street kicking his diadem in front of him in the hopes of making himself look better or more important” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 37).

The feminist movement declared war on women being the glory of the man, and the homosexual movement completed the task by insisting that no one be the glory of anyone else. And when man in his rebellion rejects the glory of God (Rom. 1:23), the next thing that happens is that he is turned aside from how the glory of God manifests itself in the world, which is through the marriage of a man and a woman — true glory.

When Paul teaches us that the woman is the glory of the man, having already said that man is the glory of God, this sets up a standard Hebraic superlative, like we see in the example of the Song of Songs, or the Holy of Holies. Woman is the glory of glories. Homosexual men have thrown that glory away. Because they are homosexual, they have rejected their glory, but because they are still men, they still yearn for glory.

Now bring it all down to the present moment. It is no  coincidence that the battleground professions are those professions which glorify an event. And homosexuals are stuck — through their own demands — with an event which has no glory. So they turn to the Christians, to the evangelical florists, and they demand that we share our glory with them. And this is something we cannot do. Glory doesn’t work that way.

So homosex is in fact detestable, but the main thing we need to notice about it right now is that it is Ichabod. The glory is departed. So perhaps we could compromise and just call it Ickybod.

Culture War — Now More Than Ever

In 1992, Pat Buchanan put the phrase “culture war” on the map with his speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Since that time, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, but — we should be careful to note — it is all the same river.

One of the things you may have noticed lately is that various Christians of various stripes have been trying to put distance between themselves and this culture war. They are “tired” of it. It just seems to go on and on, and what’s the point? Instead of all this, the Church should be focusing its energies on things like furrowed brow concern over climate change — something that will garner applause instead of sneers.

When it comes to the culture wars, I would like to begin by making a distinction between those who are tired from being on the right side, and those who are tired of being on the right side.

Christian Romance

Writing the Christian Romance (Cincinnati, OH: Writers's Digest, 2008)

An old friend of our family, an exuberant lady of advanced years, once told us that she would eat a bar of soap if there were enough salsa on it. Books on how to write are the salsa for me, and so yes, I read a book on how to write a Christian romance. I read Stephen King’s book on writing too, despite never having read anything else by him.

So I rated this one three stars. The wordcraft portions of this book were quite good, and very helpful — particularly on that pesky POV cluster of problems. But the examples, culled from various Christian romances were enough to put me off my feed, and hence the three stars.

ASV NT

The New Testament, American Standard Version (Seattle: Amazon Digital, 2014)

Of course you don’t evaluate Scripture when you are done reading through it the way you can do with other books. But you can evaluate translations. My base translation is the KJV, but I frequently alternate with other versions for my regular reading. This one read smoothly, and was not unlike the KJV.

The Crowds of Palm Sunday

Introduction:

A commonplace in Christian circles understands the events surrounding the first Palm Sunday to be a clear demonstration of the “fickleness of crowds.” But there are good reasons for questioning this common assumption.

The Text:

On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (John 12:12-13).

But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified (Matt. 27:20-23).

Overview:

When Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, in fulfillment of prophecy, a great multitude gathered around and received Him as their king, as one who was coming in the name of the Lord. There is nothing in the account to suggest that the acclaim and joy were not genuine.

And yet, a very short time later, a multitude before Pilate was persuaded by the chief priests and elders to clamor for the destruction of Jesus. There is nothing in this to suggest that the composition of the crowd was largely the same as before, or that the crucifixion of Jesus was the result of everybody suddenly changing their minds. Rather, the facts recorded for us appear to suggest that Jerusalem was divided over the identity of Christ, and that those who loved Him were (temporarily) out-maneuvered.

Jesus was arrested at night, and was examined by Annas in a secret proceeding at night, in full contradiction to Jewish law. By the time they showed up before Pilate, it was still early (John 18:28). From the time of the Lord’s arrest to the time when the first nails went in, about nine hours elapsed. The whole thing was an iniquitous rush job. For about half that time, while all this was going on, the godly from the Triumphal Entry, those yearning for the redemption of Israel, were sound asleep in their beds.