And Many Probably Should

We all know that it is not fitting for any length of time to go by in these parts without somebody bringing out old charges against me. Try to think of these charges as an order of refried beans in a cheap dive of a Mexican restaurant, meaning that the refrying actually took place about three weeks ago, but with the owners trying to get the customers to eat them today. Anyhow, Nick Gier just published on the web a letter to the editor that will shortly be appearing in the Daily News. My comments are interspersed in bold.

To the Editor of the Daily News:

Thus far we agree.

We all know how misleading book “blurbs” can be, so what are we to make of the fact that Doug Wilson keeps trotting out (most recently Nov. 5) historian Eugene Genovese’s praise for Wilson’s self-published book “Black and Tan”?

Why does Wilson keep bringing this subject up? We cannot understand it. Does he not know how contemporary scholarship works? We throw things at his head, and he is not allowed to move.

Of all the professional reviews that I have read of Wilson’s work on slavery, it is only Professor Genovese who has approved it.

Yeah, sure, Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest. But he didn’t climb all the other ones. The point of Genovese’s approval of Black & Tan is not that this makes what I am arguing automatically correct. Reasonable people can differ with what I have written and many of them probably should. But his endorsement does mean that what I am saying should be considered as being within the pale of reasonable discourse and discussion. These opinions of mine, approved by someone of Dr. Genovese’s caliber, ought not to make reasonable people go sideways in a kind of leftist warp-spasm.

Two UI history professors and a University of Washington expert on the Civil War (and member of a Wilson related Christ Church in Seattle) have condemned it. The historians on George Mason University’s History News Network (http://hnn.us) have roundly rejected it.

Right. One of them rejected me as an “Aryan supremacist minister.” We are the History News Network. We don’t need no stinking fact checkers.

When the Seattle professor told Wilson that 20 percent of the early booklet “Southern Slavery As It Was” was lifted from another book, Wilson withdrew it from circulation and promised to fix the “citation problems” and reissue it as soon as he could.

And Wilson apologized for the dog’s breakfast of a problem we created in the footnotes. And ran an appendix in Black & Tan that explained in detail the problem with the original booklet (and our responsibility for it) so that no one would think that in the new publication we were trying to evade responsibility for the blunder.

But it took Wilson 18 months to republish it as “Black and Tan,” with substantial revisions responding to the criticism that he had once publicly rejected.

Of course I responded to the criticism. That was kind of the point of the book. But if the idea being advanced here is that (apart from the citation problems) I rejected a critique of my work at one point and then quietly adopted that same criticism later, then I must repond by asking Nick to provide me with a “for instance.” He won’t be able to, because I didn’t.

Here is the real rub, however. The original slavery booklet has now been reprinted without change (except for quotation marks around the lifted portions) in “The War Between the States: America’s Uncivil War,” which historian Ed Sebesta claims “incorporates every ‘Lost Cause’ and modern Neo-Confederate idea.”

Ed Sebesta is an historian? Really? Can I be an historian too then?

Genovese’s blurb raises another serious problem. Here are the relevant parts: “Wilson . . . has a strong grasp of the essentials of the history of slavery. . . . Indeed, sad to say, his grasp is a great deal stronger than that of most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms.”

And again I thank Dr. Genovese for his kind words. And I thank Dr. Gier for repeating them.

Perhaps Genovese thinks that none of his professional colleagues will read or hear of Wilson’s book, so that he can spew this venom about them behind their backs. Genovese’s betrayal of his profession, however, is now all over the internet.

This was not Genovese’s betrayal of his profession. It was his considered and learned opinion that his profession has betrayed itself, having sold out their vocation for a rash of politically-correct multiculti lefists nostrums. Which they have.

Nick Gier, Moscow

Again, no dispute.

My thanks for Bill Ramsey, UI history professor, for help in writing this. I wish he would write a letter, too. The Daily News refused to let him have a guest column to respond to Wilson’s Nov. 5th piece.

In the midst of the slavery fracas a few years ago, I offered to debate the UI history profs who were in the fray, and all I heard was the sound of crickets. But I would certainly be willing to re-extend the invitation, in order that we might have a cordial exchange of views. I think a lot of people would come.

As It Ought To

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

Growing Dominion, Part 102

“A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren” (Prov. 17:2).

Biblical ethics are personal, and this includes biblical business ethics. Now in business, nothing is more common than the family business. “Miller and Sons” is a commonplace, and biblically speaking, it ought to be. Personal knowledge and connection is an asset, and ought not to be regarded as a liability. In our objectivist and technocratic age, with its fear of “nepotism” or “cronyism,” the personal connection is still paramount. It remains true that who you know matters more than what you know. But because of the assumptions we make about the desirability of objective “job searches,” our culture mandates an hypocrisy that says that we should go through the motions anyhow.

But, at the same time, precisely because biblical ethics are personal, if the owner’s son is a blockhead, now what? And if everybody knows it, now what? This proverb says, even though a “son who causes shame” started out in a privileged position, his misbehavior gave one of the servants a real chance for advancement. When someone slacks in their work, someone else has to pick it up. If this goes on long enough, a third party notices. This has an impact on the inheritance, or the business, or the partnership, or the project, as it ought to.

Uptight Grammarians, Out With Whom We Do Not Wish to Hang

“I am thinking of what I call Style-mongers. On taking up a book, these people concentrate on what they call its ‘style’ or its ‘English’. They judge this neither by its sound nor by its power to communicate but by its conformity to certain arbitrary rules. Their reading is a perpetual witch hunt for Americanisms, Gallicisms, split infinitives, and sentences that end with a preposition. They do not inquire whether the Americanism or Gallicism in question increases or impoverishes the expressiveness of our language. It is nothing to them that the best English speakers and writers have been ending sentences with prepositions for over a thousand years” (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p. 35).

No Sense Blaming the Meat

“The only way the unbelieving world can be constrained in its external actions, in a way contrary to that unregenerate nature, is when the Church is salty. Christ taught that His followers were the salt of the earth — applied to an ungodly society in the same way salt was applied to perishable meat as a preservative. When salt loses its savor, it does no good for the salt to start blaming the meat. Jesus taught that when salt had come to this point, then the salt was due for trampling. It was good for nothing else. The central problem in America today is the refusal of the Church to act as salt. Salt is controversial. Salt is troublesome. Salt is a nuisance. Salt is divisive. Salt is too doctrinal and theological. Salt is a pain in the neck. Salt is — well, salty. Why can’t we all just love Jesus, whoever He is, and try to provide the folks who wander in with a seeker-friendly atmosphere” (Mother Kirk, pp. 20-21).

Scandalizing Philosophy

“On the rare occasions when the New Testament deigns even to mention philosophy, it treats it as a garrulous Greek exercise that must not be allowed to distract the serious-minded from discovering the truth-telling power of the gospel . . . And now that ‘writing off’ philosophy has become philosophy’s most intellectually stimulating undertaking, perhaps it is time for those who take seriously the New Testament’s claim about the epistemological superiority of the Cross to try to make that claim intelligible” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, pp. 235-236).

Love of Story

Of course, the Narnia stories are themselves stories, and we should be enjoying them on that level. As we have been talking about various “lessons” that we can take away from them, I have wanted to be careful that I didn’t wreck the stories by making sure that everybody gets Edified. But at the same time, C.S. Lewis knew that stories instruct, and he was not shy about doing that.


But one of the things that we are taught in these stories, over and over, is the importance of the right kind of story. Stories don’t just instruct us about authority, or nobility, but they also teach about what they, the stories, are doing.


In The Horse and His Boy, how does C. S. Lewis compare English essay writing with Calormene story-telling?



“For in Calormen, storytelling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you’re taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays” (p. 35).


We have come to think that in order to be important, it has to be boring. We teach history the way it was taught under Miraz.


But what is the difference between dull and true history? “The sort of ‘History’ that was taught in Narnia under Miraz’s rule was duller than the truest history you ever read and less true than the most exciting adventure story” (PC, p. 199).


C.S. Lewis was one of the great scholars of the twentieth century. One of the reasons he was so great is that he understood the limitations of scholarship, and the kinds of handicaps that scholars frequently labor under. People thought that exciting stories were for children, but if you wanted something that was true, it had to be told or written in a boring way by adults with long faces. And of course, you should know, having read many of Lewis’s stories, that he did not believe this at all. The right kind of adventure story was full of truth. And the worst kind of history was full of lies (and was dull to boot). How does C.S. Lewis teach us to trust the right kind of stories? Caspian said, “‘Sometimes I did wonder if there really was such a person as Aslan: but then sometimes I wondered if there were really people like you. Yet there you are’” (p. 70).


Although the Narnia stories are full of stories, there is one kind of story that is consistently excluded—and that exclusion tells us a story. As we learn about story, what important principle does Aslan reiterate a number of times? “‘. . . no one is ever told what would have happened.’”


Stories are training; they are preparation. When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy find themselves in Narnia again at the beginning of Prince Caspian, they are in a desolate area. How do they figure out what to do? What is helpful to the children as they adjust to Narnia? “‘In the books . . .’” (p. 6). And consequently, what sort of examples do they come up with? “‘Hermits and knight-errant and people like that always manage to live somehow if they’re in a forest’” (p. 11).


In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, how did Edmund’s reading come in handy? “Edmund, the only one of the party who had read several detective stories . . .” (p. 124). In that same book, Eustace came close to being lashed. How did he put it? “‘get two dozen.’ I didn’t know what this meant till Edmund explained to me. It comes in the sort of books those Pevensie kids read’” (p. 74). And at the end of their voyage, how does the adventure of Caspian differ from that of Sleeping Beauty? “‘But here,’ said the girl, ‘it is different. Here he cannot kiss the Princess till he has dissolved the enchantment’” (p. 203). As Lewis tells us his stories, one of the things he loves to do is hold up the mirrors of other stories, so that we can see the reflections of each in the other.


So far, we have considered some very important things, things like nobility and authority. If we have not grown up around this, how can we ever learn it? For example, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, how did Reepicheep think? “For his mind was full of forlorn hopes, death-or-glory charges, and last stands” (p. 67). He learned a great deal from the stories he had grown up with.


And in The Horse and His Boy, what is the difference between Calormene and Narnian culture? “‘For the gods have withheld from the barbarians the light of discretion, as that their poetry is not, like ours, full of choice apophthegms and useful maxims, but is all of love and war’” (p. 117). This is one of the ways we can see that Lewis is not simply being bigoted against the Calormenes. Earlier we saw that he praised Calormene story-telling highly—it was much better than English essay-writing. But when it came to poetry, the Narnians were much better at it than the Calormenes were.


Just as reading the right kind of story prepares you for life, so the wrong kind of books leave you woefully unprepared. Eustace was a reader, but this really didn’t help him in Narnia. Actually, it didn’t help him in our world either, but it was more obvious in Narnia. “He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools” (p. 3). In short, the books he read were dull and boring, and very modern. When Lewis was writing the Narnia stories, there were numerous propaganda books floating around trying to persuade progressive people (and Eustace’s family was progressive) that communism was the future. And what better way to prove it than to have pictures of fat children doing exercises in model schools?


But whatever virtues such books might have had, they were very weak in all the important respects. This important point is reinforced later on when Eustace had to deal with a dragon. “. . . as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons” (p. 87).


Even though this is all true, it is not true that stories are “just useful.” It would be a mistake to think of stories as the sugar coating on the nasty pill of facts that children have to swallow. In Prince Caspian, when Trumpkin tells them that explaining how he got there is complicated, they don’t mind. “‘But it’ll be a long story,’ said the Dwarf. ‘All the better,’ said Lucy, ‘We love stories’” (p. 40). In other words, the right kind of people love the right kind of stories. They love the stories, and this is why they are useful. People who by-pass the stories to get to the useful picture of the grain elevator find out, at the end of the day, that they aren’t very useful.


Stories have the important function of dividing people, identifying their basic allegiances. We learn that Prince Caspian is the right kind of person because he loves the right things. What did Caspian think about stories? “Nurse would tell him stories” (p. 41). What is Caspian’s hope? “‘. . . like in the stories?” (p. 47). Why is Caspian, though a Telmarine, good? “‘. . . love the Old Things’” (p. 53). And, of course, he loved the old things as they came to him in stories.


In contrast, what did Miraz think about stories? “‘At your age you ought to be thinking of battles and adventures, not fairy tales’” (p. 42). Miraz represents the Telmarines generally. Because of the bad things they had done to the Old Narnians, they “‘. . . are now trying to cover up even the memory of them’” (p. 51). This is why they disliked the old stories. But among the Telmarines in Prince Caspian, who decided to stay? “Some of them, chiefly the young ones, had heard stories” (p. 214).


Occasionally, you can find a good guy who doesn’t believe the old stories, but this is rare. Does Trumpkin believe the old stories? “‘As firmly as that, I daresay’” (p. 70). And even though Trumpkin starts out not believing the stories, Aslan makes him a believer soon enough.


Because stories are so important, they can be twisted by those who are evil. In The Last Battle, what warning does the centaur give the king? “‘Sire, do not believe this tale. It cannot be. The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do’” (p. 19). Stories carry the truth, but they also carry lies. Stories can be lying stories.


Not only that, but people can get the wrong things out of them. In Prince Caspian, Nikabrik had more “faith” than Trumpkin had. “‘Trumpkin believed none of the stories. I was ready to put them to the trial’” (p. 166). But what does Nikabrik appeal to out of the old stories? “‘As for power, do not the stories say that the Witch defeated Aslan, and bound him, and killed him on that very stone which is over there, just beyond the light?’” (p. 168). Nikabrik misses the point completely.


What is the answer to this? Someone reminds him of the rest of the story. “‘He came to life again’” (p. 168). But how does Nikabrik reply, still missing the point? “‘They say she [the White Witch] ruled for a hundred years’” (p. 169). We see this kind of story-twisting in our own day, when people go back into history and try to make the bad guys into the good guys.


In The Last Battle, this element of twisting is a very important part of the story. “‘Is it not said in all the old stories that He is not a tame lion””‘Well said, well said, Jewel,’ cried the King. ‘Those are the very words: not a tame lion. It comes in many tales’” (p. 20). And later on in the book, how do the bad guys (by saying the same thing) make their lie more powerful? “By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger” (p. 116).


Stories help us to understand what side we are supposed to be on. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, how does Peter know the robin is a good bird? “‘That’s a nasty idea. Still—a robin, you know. They’re good birds in all the stories I’ve ever read’” (p. 61).


And how does the Witch protect against Edmund finding out what she is like? “‘If your sister has met one of the Fauns, she may have heard strange stories about me—nasty stories that might make her afraid to come to me. Fauns will say anything, you know, and now . . .” (p. 40). Edmund, when he was back with his brother and sisters, and who was already turned halfway into a traitor by the Witch, raises all the wrong questions. He got the story skewed. “‘If it comes to that, which is the right side? How do we know that the Fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I know we’ve been told she’s a witch) is in the wrong? We don’t really know anything about either’” (p. 62).


And he keeps doing this. What sort of question does Edmund continue to raise? “‘I think it’s a nice beaver,’ said Lucy. ‘Yes, but how do we know?’ said Edmund” (p. 65). And he continues “‘If it comes to talking about sides,’ said Edmund, ‘how do we know you’re a friend?’” (p. 67).


How does Edmund rationalize his alliance with the Witch? He does it by twisting the story, just like Nikabrik did. “‘Because,’ he said to himself, ‘all these people who say nasty things about her are her enemies and probably half of it isn’t true’” (p. 89). But even on his own account, this means that half of it is, and he is still on her side. But that is what happens to you when you twist stories—you get all jumbled.


In The Magician’s Nephew, what important lesson has Digory learned from the stories he has read? “‘And you’re simply a wicked, cruel magician like the ones in the stories. Well, I’ve never read a story in which people of that sort weren’t paid out in the end, and I bet you will be. And serve you right’” (pp. 27-28).


C.S. Lewis did not just write stories; he read them. Not only did he read them, but he made pretty sure that all the good characters in his books had the pleasure of reading the same stories he had read. And it was a very nice gift to give to them.


Of course all this points to the real story, the final story, the story that never ends. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, what wonderful thing does Lucy encounter in the book of spells that she read? “And she never could remember; and ever since that day what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book” (p. 157).


This “good story” is one that she (and all the others) eventually got into. And when they did get into it (in The Last Battle), did Aslan remain as Aslan? “And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after” (p. 210).


So the stories ended because they actually began. Did the wonder of it ever grow old? No, not at all. “. . . in which every chapter is better than the one before” (p. 211).

You Are Chosen. So Choose.

This small portion of Deuteronomy is a wonderful summary of the whole—a mini-symphony in the midst of a much greater work. “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee . . .” (Deuteronomy 10:12-22).

What does God expect from you? The question is reminiscent of Micah 6:8. He wants Israel to fear, to walk, to love, to serve and to keep (vv. 12-13). This is all to their good (v. 13). We then come to two verbal “triplets,” back to back. Each has in the first place an opening hymn-like exultation, followed by a surprising revelation of God’s character, followed by a charge to Israel to respond appropriately (vv. 14-16 & 17-19). God must be feared above all (v. 20). God is the praise of Israel (v. 21). His kindness is seen in how He has exalted Israel, who went down into Egypt a mere seventy in number (v. 22).

So what does God require? Five things are mentioned. If we see them chiastically, love is in the center. The fear of God is associated with keeping God’s commandments, and walking in God’s ways is associated with serving God heart and soul (vv. 12-13).

Fear

the Lord thy God as you keep His word.

Walk in all His ways in faithful service.

Love Him.

Serve

Him with all your heart and soul as you walk with Him.

Keep

His commandments and statutes as you fear Him.

This is all for your good. Obedience is a great blessing, a great gift from God. Treasure it—He is showing His great kindness to you.

We come then to the first triad. The pattern we see here is paean, revelation, and charge.

Paean:

the language here is superlative. Heaven is the Lord’s. Not only this, but the heaven of heavens is His also. The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains (v. 14).

Revelation:

now the surprise. From this height, the Lord delighted in their fathers and decided to love them. This love includes their seed after them. This means you, Moses says, above all nations (v. 15).

Charge:

you must be born again. Repent. Circumsise the foreskin of your hearts. Soften your stiff necks (v. 16).

And then the second triad. Moses follows the same pattern again.

Paean

: the Lord your God is the God of all gods, the Lord of all lords, a great God, a mighty warrior and terrible. He shows no partiality, and takes no bribes (v. 17).

Revelation: now the surprise. This great and terrible God stoops—and takes care of the orphans and widows. He loves the aliens and gives them food and clothing (v. 18).

Charge: you must do the same. You must love the resident alien because God does, and because you know what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land(v. 19).

Another charge is laid upon the people. They are to fear the Lord (v. 20). They are to serve Him (v. 20). They are to cleave to Him, and take their oaths in His name. The imagery of cleaving is telling. In Genesis we are told that a man will leave his father and mother in order to cleave to his wife (Gen. 2:24). This is a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31). Paul uses the same idea in 1 Cor. 6:17. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Cleave does not mean “stand in the vicinity of.” Cleave to the Lord.

God is our praise; God is our God, the one who has done great and terrible things (v. 21). Israel has seen His mighty acts. They began with a mere seventy, and now they are a mighty host (v. 22).

What are the applications? You are chosen—and therefore repent. The doctrine of election, rightly understood, never leads to presumption. It leads rather to a life of repentance, a life, if we may speak the way Calvin did, of regeneration. You are chosen—so love your enemies. Remember that our Lord was steeped in the doctrine of Deuteronomy. Judging from the quotations it was one of His favorite books. Repent, for the kingdom is at hand. Love your enemies. Care for the widow. Look out for the resident alien. You are chosen—so choose. God has called you, so you cleave to Him. Fear Him. Swear in His name. Walk in imitation of Him. Do not assume your love for Him is rightly informed, so pay close attention to His commandments and statutes.

Not Being Graded

We have assembled here yet again. We do so aware of our sinfulness, and our unworthiness, and this is something we have already confessed.

But at the same time, we are commanded in Scripture to walk in a manner that is worthy of the name we have received. And you, as a particular congregation, need to be reminded that your elders and pastor are extremely grateful to God for you. We have pastoral problems, and difficulties with wandering sheep, as all churches do, but we are mindful of the good work that God is doing in our midst. Young men, continue in your strength. Young women, persevere in all modesty and purity. Fathers, provide for your households as you have been doing. Mothers, care for those in your charge, as we know you delight to do. Husbands, we know you love your wives. Wives, we know that you honor your husbands. And as citizens of our community, we know that you have been genuine salt and light, and we rejoice in the work of God.

This said, you do not come to this Table as a reward for being so good. Rather, you come to be nourished, so that God will continue His good work in you and through you all. More good works are planned for you tomorrow, and you need strength for the journey. We do not feed our children meals because they were good yesterday. We feed them simply because they are our children, and in doing this, we know we are equipping them to be good tomorrow. As you come to the Table, you are not being graded; you are being fed.

So rejoice in the work of God thus far, as we do, and look forward to tomorrow by faith.