Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Renaissance: Word of the Week 07/30/2007

Since the only true and thorough rebirth that can possibly occur in a human being is the miracle of being born from above (John 3:3), it is ironic, and revealing, that renaissance (a rebirth or revival) is the name given to a period in history defined as a humanistic revival of classical art, architecture, literature, and learning.

Traherne via C.S. Lewis: Quote of the Week

'Can you be righteous', asks Traherne, 'unless you be just in rendering to things their due esteem? All things were made to be yours and you were made to prize them according to their value.'

~C.S. Lewis
The Abolition of Man

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Angels in the Architecture

Douglas Jones, Douglas Wilson, Angles in the Architecture (Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho, 1998)

There are some noteworthy problems with this book, not the least of which is the ambiguous style in which most of it is written. Many arguments are poorly supported. Logical leaps abound.

In spite of the trouble, I found great value here as well. Many observations astute and conclusions correct, their weak arguments notwithstanding, and not all the authors' assertions are mishandled in this way. Angels in the Architecture identifies some common and very detrimental contemporary misconceptions, which it is the purpose of the authors to correct.

A limited selection of highlights:

    ...a central lie, which is that the world is the source of aesthetic wisdom and understanding.

    "A Wine Dark Sea and Tumbling Sky" p. 28

    We want an avuncular figure in the sky, someone to hand out celestial candies when we are feeling a little blue.

    "Te Deum" p. 42

    The Church today is a stranger to victories because we refuse to sing anthems to the king of all victories. We do not want a God of battles, we want sympathy for our surrenders.

    "Te Deum" p. 43

    Part of the Medievel ability to appreciate the obviousness of Christianity was their maturing understanding of the ancient war between the seed of Eve and the seed of the Serpent.

    "The Emerging Divide" p. 49

    Silence is terrifying; it reveals our bitter sin. The rebellious demand constant background noise as a shield against God.

    "Swords into Plowshares" p. 135

    In search of "real change," they charge out to conquer the institution [the state] that is most impotent in actually bringing it about.

    "And Babylons Fall" p. 159

One of the strongest chapters and, possibly the most relevant is "Rights of Degree".

    Modernity only believes in the language of equality -- we do not mind tyrannies as long as they are draped in the name of the people, all of whom must be formally acknowledged to be equal. The tyrant may actually be engaged in trying to murder all the people, but as long as he bows and scrapes in front of the Temple of Democracy, his position is secure.

    As C.S. Lewis comments, "The modern idea that we can choose between Hierarchy and equality is, for Shakespeare's Ulysses, mere moonshine. The real alternative is tyranny; if you will not have authority you will find yourself obeying brute force."

    This must be emphasized because egalitarianism is so deeply embedded in the modern mind that thinking outside of egalitarian assumptions is extraordinarily difficult.

    p. 162

    Not surprisingly, if this is the case, then at least some caveats must be stated at the outset. First, an assertion of hierarchy in no way sets aside the biblical requirements of humility, or the scriptural warnings about the insidiousness of pride. Rather, it postulates a world in which rank and station exist, and therefore it is necessary to recognize the importance of humility. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themeselves" (Phil. 2:3). Conditioned by egalitarianism the way we have been, we think that any assertion of hierarchy contains the clear diabolical desire to "be superior" to others, which is pride and arrogance. Certainly any such desire, considered by itself, is pride and arrogance. But we conveniently forget that our egalitarian zeal may be reflecting the same grasping attitude -- and intense desire not to "be inferior" to anyone.

    We have institutionalized envy, and we believe we are advocates of justice when we are simply displaying our petulance.

    p. 163

    The first victim on the altar of equality is always that of liberty. The second victim is a collective one, a long line of men, women, and children which stretches out of sight. Hearing modernists talk about the bloody abuses of the Middle Ages is like hearing a lecture on disease contol by Typhoid Mary, and it is all a bit much.

    p. 166


    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—

    ~2 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Man's Longing for God

A monument recently built on the "left bank" of the Ishim River in Astana, Kazakhstan represents an ancient pagan myth. The tower represents the Baiterek (poplar) tree from Kazakh folklore -- The Tree of Life. In the branches, the Samruk bird has laid a golden egg, which is the sun.

Rest: Word of the week 07/23/07

Another word used for disparate meanings.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Down: Word of the Week 07/16/07

I'm fascinated by words that are identical, yet have apparently unrelated meanings.

I'm also intrigued by the words that are, in some respects, so simple that they are some of the first words we ever learn, yet have many different uses or complexities in their use.

Down is an excellent example of both.


This is the Day!

Worshiping God with a mission team as we prepared for a trip, we sang what is typically considered a children's song, "This is the Day".

I continue to sing this song many times each day.

This is the day that the Lord has made!
I will rejoice and be glad in it!

Is this not a children's song? But it is deep theology!

Because the Lord has made this day (and every day), because he loves us, and because he has all power to express his love for us by working for our good, we can trust him. Yes, we can trust him even with the thorough, unquestioning trust of a child. We can rejoice and be glad in each day without consideration for what the day brings. Because the Lord made the day, we know that all in it is for our good.

    "This is what the LORD says—
    your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
    I am the LORD,
    who has made all things,
    who alone stretched out the heavens,
    who spread out the earth by myself,

    ~Isaiah 44:24

    For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
    ~Colossians 1:16-17

    Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
    Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.

    Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
    In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.

    Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name.

    ~1 Chronicles 29:11-13

    Your laws endure to this day,
    for all things serve you.

    ~Psalm 119:91

    And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church
    ~Ephesians 1:22

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
    ~Romans 8:28

    "You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
    for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being."

    ~Revelation 4:11

Saturday, July 14, 2007

That Special Someone

I have heard many single people talk about finding that special someone. Married people as well encourage their single unmarried friends. "There's someone out there just for you" or "there's someone for everyone" are refrains we have all heard from Hollywood, radio, our families, and from each other. From this idea of destiny we take hope, after many years perhaps, without having found "the perfect mate".

I have also heard it said, "I don't want to settle." This sounds prudent. It would certainly be unwise to enter into a marriage with a person with whom you do not feel some excitement for making a life-long commitment to a unique relationship that no one else can join with you. Marriage, as an oath sworn to commit one's entire lifetime to only one other person, is not to be taken lightly.

When we talk about "settling" with regard to a spouse, we are talking about giving up on a dream: that "special someone", the one person in the whole world who is "perfect" for me.

But we quite easily, and even frequently acknowledge "nobody's perfect". The bright light of the sun begins to disperse the morning mist of our dream and we begin to see that we pursue a fantasy.

But this dream does not come from God. While the Bible does abundantly praise and recommend marriage, it never describes anything like a "special someone". It's that simple. It's a childhood fantasy. This is hard to admit. I am one to encourage the relentless pursuit of a dream and persistence against circumstances and nay-sayers. But perhaps I still can be.

And really, this is good news. I know so very well how desperately imperfect I am. Seriously, for whom could I possibly be a perfect match? I used to say with cynical (though light-hearted) sarcasm, "I'll never settle for a woman who will settle for me."

What does come from God? One instruction about who to marry: "do not be unequally yoked." Many instructions about how to do marriage. Might this indicate God's priorities? I suspect he cares more about our behavior in marriage than about who we have chosen to marry. In fact, in the history of the world and even in some cultures today, choice in marriage is completely irrelevant.

Yet our dream remains so appealing! It seems so right to desire beauty, joy, delight, and to receive love. But have we explored that to which we are called?

Are those who "settle" really giving up on a dream? Some of them may be, but perhaps some of them have learned what I have not. Perhaps they have learned to see beyond the fragile veneer of beauty that fades and to recognize a flawed human being when they see one. Perhaps they have even learned to give love to such a person.

I expect to find great joy in giving love to another, in part, because I know that I cannot do it alone. I must depend on Jesus to be there with me infusing me with strength, stamina, and love for someone other than myself that I do not naturally have. But also, there is pleasure to be had in enriching another person, especially one I enjoy and for whom I have care.

I think the real decision, the real commitment, of marriage isn't as much about who we choose as it is about who we choose to be.

Let us not settle for that mythical "special someone". Rather, let us worship God alone and (married or not) continue to strive for the dream of being the spouses that only the indwelling Christ can prepare and empower us to be.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Evolve: Word of the week 07/09/07

I've heard so many people talk about ideas or projects built on ideas that have grown and changed over time by saying "it evolved". I have always been annoyed by this use of the word, believing that it is inconsistent with the definition of the word and therefore utterly impossible.

My conclusion was based on this premise: ideas require thought. Evolution requires the absence of thought. Therefore, "the evolution of an idea" is an oxymoron. Honestly, I may have been driven in part by the feeling that use of the word gives assent to the theory.

However, the words evolve and evolution were not invented by Darwin. As a result, they both have meaning beyond his debunked theory and beyond biology.

In addition to providing enlightening definitions for both words, The American Heritage Dictionary also handles quite elegantly the word evolutionism.