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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Easter is now [almost] upon us, and we await the predictable onslaught of naysayers who declaim with an almost evangelical fervour that the Jesus story is one big lie. Such tirades by the evangelists of scepticism seem almost to constitute a pastoral responsibility on their part annually to reinforce the ideological conceits of their tribe of followers, thus providing atheists, agnostics and "nones" with reassurance that they needn't take Jesus too seriously.
The opening salvo this year comes courtesy of the indefatigable Bart Ehrman. For those who don't know, Ehrman is something of a celebrity sceptic in the United States. A professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, he was formerly a fundamentalist Christian who de-converted to agnosticism, and now writes books exposing the apparently fallacious claims of traditional Christianity. He has several New York Times best-sellers to his name, including Misquoting Jesus: The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible and Forged: Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Ehrman is a regular on the talk-show circuit, frequenting programs like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Dateline, CNN, and National Public Radio.
A genuinely erudite scholar of ancient texts and a fierce debater, Ehrman is the bane of traditionalists and the champion of sceptics. A pity, then, that he is almost always wrong.
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The Mustang, Okla., school board voted Monday (April 14) to adopt a Bible course developed by Steve Green, clearing the way for the Hobby Lobby president, whose suit against the Affordable Care Act is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, to enter another charged arena at the borderline of church and state.
The board, whose district is practically in Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City backyard, agreed to beta-test the first year of the Museum of the Bible Curriculum, an ambitious four-year public school elective on the narrative, history and impact of the Good Book.
For at least the first semester of the 2014-15 year, Mustang alone will employ the program, said Jerry Pattengale, head of the Green Scholars Initiative, which is overseeing its development. In September 2016, he hopes to place it in at least 100 high schools; by the following year, “thousands.”
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RNS: You’ve talked a lot about your journey out of the church world. What do you consider yourself now? Christian or Episcopalian or something else?
BBT: It’s true that a wrote a book called Leaving Church in which I detail leaving parish ministry, but I’m still very much involved in the church world. I end up speaking and lecturing in church settings at least twice a month. So I haven’t journeyed out of the church at all as far as I can tell. I’d say I consider myself a practicing Christian and in April I’ll celebrate my 30th anniversary as a priest in the Episcopal church. So I’m an active and practicing Christian, though I’m as bad at it as most of us are.
RNS: So if you’re a Christians and other who have very different beliefs and practices than you are too, what makes a person a Christian exactly?
BBT: I can call myself a Christian, and there are bodies of Christians who could disagree with me based on their own criteria about what makes a real Christian. But I think a lot of us are rethinking what it means to be Christian. And a lot of us are rejecting other people’s rejection of us as Christians. At this point in my life, I am pretty willing to let people tell me whether or not they are Christian rather than imposing my own definitions of it on them. My base definition is “here she says, here she is a Christian.”
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It was the two whales,
swimming each an inch
below the surface of my eight-year-old
mind that confused me,
left me standing before the Sunday School class
mute in my corduroy pants,
hair as stiff and slicked as the oil-spill
collected in the rushes along the beach,
trying to remember
what God sent a marionette
to Nineveh and whether the message
was “repent” or “always tell the truth.”
Read it all and consider reading his "Elegy for Trains" which contains not only this poem but many others--KSH.
Beginning at sundown on April 14, many Jews will be observing Passover at a Seder, the special meal that commemorates their ancestors’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. The book that guides the ritual is the haggadah. The Sarajevo Haggadah, named for the Bosnian city where it is kept, is a rare, beautifully illustrated manuscript created more than 600 years ago in Spain, and many see its own story as a compelling symbol of the Exodus. “It went through so many different cultures,” observes composer Merima Kljuco, “and so many different people took care of the book and helped it survive.”
Read or watch and listen to it all.
Would you ever explore the idea that this other that you’ve experienced could be God?
I would not explore monotheistic religions. The religions that impress me are those which involve ecstatic communion with a deity or spirit–like voodoo. I like that much better than belief. I have respect for that. But as I said, I’m not looking for anything, and I’m not going to church.
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Barbara Ehrenreich is known for her books and essays about politics, social welfare, class, women's health and other women's issues. Her best-seller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, explored the difficulties faced by low-wage workers. So fans of Ehrenreich's writing may be surprised at the subject of her new memoir — the mystical visions she had as a teenager.
To make her new book an even more unlikely subject, Ehrenreich describes herself as a rationalist, a scientist by training, and an atheist who is the daughter of atheists. Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything draws on her journals from 1956-'66, and on the extensive reading she's done in the past decade about the history of religion. She never discussed these mystical experiences before writing the book — and she suspects she's not the only one keeping such things to herself.
"People have these unaccountable mystic experiences," Ehrenreich tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Generally they say nothing or they label it as 'God' and get on with their lives. I'm saying, 'Hey, no, let's figure out what's going on here.' "
Read or listen to it all.
At Harvard, Updike’s freshman roommate was Christopher Lasch, who would become the author of “The Culture of Narcissism” (1979). It was a competitive, uneasy friendship. At Harvard, Updike met his first wife, Mary Pennington, to whom he would remain married for more than 20 years. It was their social set in Ipswich, Mass. — the cocktails, the games, the gamboling adultery — that he would describe so lovingly and so wickedly, deploying the full sensorium of his prose, in “Couples” (1968) and in so many short stories.
That Updike had affairs, sometimes with his friends’ wives, is not news. “I drank up women’s tears and spat them out,” he declared in one late poem, “as 10-point Janson, Roman and ital.” Mr. Begley charts some of the details while naming few names, in order, he says, to respect privacy and promote candor.
“It was a matter of certain pride to be sleeping with John,” one friend comments. Mr. Begley suggests that Mary might have been the first in their marriage to have an affair. “Welcome to the post-pill paradise,” he wrote in “Couples....”
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The Book of Common Prayer is nearly 500 years old. Does it still make a difference for how we worship today?
I suppose that would depend on who you mean by "we"—there are millions of Christians worshipping in ways unaffected by the BCP, except insofar as they share common roots in Jewish and early Christian worship. But the reach of the BCP is more extensive than one might think. It has relatively direct connections to Methodist and Lutheran worship. And the liturgical scholarship that, in the early 20th century, went into possible revisions of the Church of England's 1662 book eventually made its way not only into modern Anglican prayer books but even had an influence on liturgical developments in the Roman Catholic Church, especially when vernacular Masses were approved at Vatican II.
And then, of course, the BCP's rite for Holy Matrimony has spread throughout the English-speaking world. I was once a groomsman in a Unitarian wedding that used it—though with all Trinitarian references gently excised.
So all in all, the BCP's influence on Christian worship is kind of a big deal.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship --Book of Common Prayer Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Books * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
Have not many of us, in the weary way of life, felt, in some hours, how far easier it were to die than to live?
The martyr, when faced even by a death of bodily anguish and horror, finds in the very terror of his doom a strong stimulant and tonic. There is a vivid excitement, a thrill and fervor, which may carry through any crisis of suffering that is the birth-hour of eternal glory and rest.
But to live,—to wear on, day after day, of mean, bitter, low, harassing servitude, every nerve dampened and depressed, every power of feeling gradually smothered,—this long and wasting heart-martyrdom, this slow, daily bleeding away of the inward life, drop by drop, hour after hour,—this is the true searching test of what there may be in man or woman.
When Tom stood face to face with his persecutor, and heard his threats, and thought in his very soul that his hour was come, his heart swelled bravely in him, and he thought he could bear torture and fire, bear anything, with the vision of Jesus and heaven but just a step beyond; but, when he was gone, and the present excitement passed off, came back the pain of his bruised and weary limbs,—came back the sense of his utterly degraded, hopeless, forlorn estate; and the day passed wearily enough.
Long before his wounds were healed, Legree insisted that he should be put to the regular field-work; and then came day after day of pain and weariness, aggravated by every kind of injustice and indignity that the ill-will of a mean and malicious mind could devise. Whoever, in our circumstances, has made trial of pain, even with all the alleviations which, for us, usually attend it, must know the irritation that comes with it. Tom no longer wondered at the habitual surliness of his associates; nay, he found the placid, sunny temper, which had been the habitude of his life, broken in on, and sorely strained, by the inroads of the same thing. He had flattered himself on leisure to read his Bible; but there was no such thing as leisure there. In the height of the season, Legree did not hesitate to press all his hands through, Sundays and week-days alike. Why shouldn't he?—he made more cotton by it, and gained his wager; and if it wore out a few more hands, he could buy better ones. At first, Tom used to read a verse or two of his Bible, by the flicker of the fire, after he had returned from his daily toil; but, after the cruel treatment he received, he used to come home so exhausted, that his head swam and his eyes failed when he tried to read; and he was fain to stretch himself down, with the others, in utter exhaustion.
Is it strange that the religious peace and trust, which had upborne him hitherto, should give way to tossings of soul and despondent darkness? The gloomiest problem of this mysterious life was constantly before his eyes,—souls crushed and ruined, evil triumphant, and God silent. It was weeks and months that Tom wrestled, in his own soul, in darkness and sorrow. He thought of Miss Ophelia's letter to his Kentucky friends, and would pray earnestly that God would send him deliverance. And then he would watch, day after day, in the vague hope of seeing somebody sent to redeem him; and, when nobody came, he would crush back to his soul bitter thoughts,—that it was vain to serve God, that God had forgotten him. He sometimes saw Cassy; and sometimes, when summoned to the house, caught a glimpse of the dejected form of Emmeline, but held very little communion with either; in fact, there was no time for him to commune with anybody.
--Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Polygamy interestingly makes a comeback at the dawn of civilization 10,000 years ago, when this rational hunter and gatherer puts down his spear in favor of picking up the farmer’s hoe and shepherd’s staff. At this point, things started getting more interesting: prosperous, polygamous and warlike. With accumulated wealth comes power, and with it, the ability to write societal rules to your benefit.
In short, inequality of wealth and power reintroduces sexual scarcity back into the human story. Those with the most land and largest herds — civilization’s new alpha males — naturally started taking an unequal share of the women for themselves. In order to release the social tensions created by polygamy, a new warrior class developed to plunder the women and wealth of other people. Extreme examples of the expansionistic logic of polygamy can be seen in Genghis Khan at the top, and in suicide bombers willing to off themselves to get their own harem of virgins to debauch at the bottom.
A central argument of “Marriage and Civilization” is that monogamy, just like polygamy, is an elite-driven enterprise. Monogamy requires self-restraint and forward thinking among the strongest. These powerful few recognize the bellicose logic of polygamy and choose sexual equity because of the internal peace and prosperity that follows. This turn connects the last ape to the founders of Western civilization.
Read it all.
Here is one:
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”― The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Poetry & Literature Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. 'Now that's one way to live,' I would point out to my companion, 'trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now come across the street with me.' On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort he is holding the world in one hand. My point was illustrated graphically. We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, 'I give up, Lord; here's my life. I give you my world, the whole world.'"--Bruce Larson Believe and Belong (Power Books, 1982) and quoted by yours truly in this morning's sermon
he Vatican Library has begun digitising its priceless collection of ancient manuscripts dating from the origins of the Church.
The first stage of the project will cover some 3,000 handwritten documents over the next four years.
The cost - more than $20m (£12m) - will be borne by Japan's NTT Data technology company.
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Many of us love the busyness, energy, and creative dynamism of a robust church. Many of us love the program direction and even the management. And yet all of us pastors must summon an uncommon discipline if we are to reflect the priority and importance of preaching.
It can be done. [Joseph] Sittler [wrote in his essay “The Maceration of the Minister”]:
It [the congregation] is likely to accept, support and be deeply molded by the understanding of Office and calling which is projected by its minister’s actual behavior. It will come to assess as central what he, in his actual performance of ministry and use of his time, makes central.The preacher, Sittler concluded, must order her or his time around study, reflection, and sermon preparation.
--Christian Century, March 19, 2014 edition, page 3
By Marsden's reading, the 1960's should be understood as both an outgrowth of 1950's themes of autonomy and authenticity and, more widely, a reaction against the combination of unprincipled mushiness and clubby exclusivity that characterized consensus liberalism. The supposed end of ideology brought its opposite: a passionate decade of politics characterized by various and sometimes contradictory convictions. First came a rebellion on the Right that ranged from William F. Buckley to the John Birch Society and culminated in the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Then came the SDS, New Left, anti-war movement, Black Panthers, and street demonstrations outside the Democratic convention in 1968.
This dynamic has been ongoing. Marsden interprets the rise of the religious right in the 1970's and 1980's as a reaction against the moral relativism implicit in consensus liberalism. In his 1970 book, Dare to Discipline, James Dobson put forward a view of principled parenting, as it were, and he did so in self-conscious opposition to the open-ended, flexible, pragmatic liberal style. Francis Schaeffer made the political dimension explicit. In A Christian Manifesto, published in 1981, he issued a rallying call for Christians to fight against relativistic secular humanism and to restore America as a Christian nation.
Little has changed. As an undergraduate I remember futile arguments about racial diversity and affirmative action. For the sake of equality we were to give preferences on the basis of race. Ok, I'd ask, how much preference? For how long? How would we know when we had a truly "diverse" student body? No answers were forthcoming, or rather lots of answers, some contradictory. Beneath, behind, and above these discussions was the conviction that, justifiable or not, diversity and affirmative action were necessities. Progressive policies had to move forward one way or another, and we could and should trust the well-meaning liberals in positions of responsibility to make good, fair judgments--even though nobody could define what "fair" meant in these circumstances. Moreover, dissent was severely punished.
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Post-Reformation England was jittery with fears of a Catholic revival. Sir Francis Walsingham, the spymaster and priest-hunter at the court of Elizabeth I, regarded Jesuits as a sinister sect involved in popish attempts to dethrone his patron-monarch. Spain’s ill-fated attack on England in 1588 intensified Walsingham’s clampdown on perceived traitors. In the paranoid post-Armada years, Jesuits and other “Romish” suspects were smoked out of hiding and publicly executed.
Historian Jessie Childs won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography with her first book, Henry VIII’s Last Victim. Now she has written a superb account of cloak-and-dagger religious intrigue in Tudor England. God’s Traitors describes a John le Carré-like world of political double-dealing and “spiery” (as the Elizabethans called it). This was a time when moles were planted in Catholic seminaries abroad and Elizabethan diplomacy created a looking-glass war in which priest was turned against priest, informant against informant.
The brutal and insistent Protestant dogma under Elizabeth I had much in common with the anti-Protestant Inquisition in Spain. The Spanish courts of inquiry controlled by Philip II, like the Tudor courts of inquiry controlled by his arch-enemy Elizabeth I, extracted confessions by means of the rack or burning tongs. Its methods of intimidation and control were designed above all to spread fear and suspicion.
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My oldest daughter asks her hardest questions at bedtime, when we flop open the pages of Scripture atop her flowered quilt.
We flip through pages of her Bible, rustling like onion skins between our fingers. We land on the story of David and Goliath, and I read aloud the story of a heroic boy who felled a giant with one smooth stone.
In the bluish light of her bedside lamp, I can see on her face what’s coming next. She wears the hard questions in her knitted brow and tilted head.
“Mom?” she asks. “Why would God think it’s OK to kill Goliath? Isn’t all murder wrong?”
Read it all.
Check it out.
Stephen Smith doesn't look like a mad scientist, because he's not one. Not really. He's not even a code guy by training. But he has packed the room at BibleTech, an occasional gathering of coders, hackers, publishers, scholars, and Bible technology enthusiasts. And the standing-room-only crowd is starting to turn on him. No pitchforks and torches. But for once in this collegial, tight-knit retreat, you can feel the tension growing.
They've seen his experiments before. You might have, too. He's the guy who wrote the code to quantify what folks on Twitter gave up for Lent and how the fasts change from year to year (forswearing swearing is up, dropping alcohol is down). He figured out what Bible verses went viral after Osama bin Laden was killed, or at any other time (chances are good that "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" and "For I know the plans I have for you" are doing really well right now), and the most popular saints and mountains in American church names. (Mt. Pisgah beats out Mt. Nebo. And Lutherans almost never call their church "First Lutheran"—though "First" is a fifth of Presbyterian churches.)
If someone releases a new API (code that lets applications interact with each other), or if Google unveils a new tool in beta, or if a new dataset is published online, it's a fairly safe bet that Smith will try to connect it to the Bible. In 2012, Stanford University published a Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. Smith used it to calculate the time and cost of each of Paul's missionary journeys.
Read it all.
If the number of awards scooped up by George Marsden's 2003 biography of Jonathan Edwards is taken as the index of achievement, Marsden stands as the dean of living interpreters of American religion. With The Twilight of the American Enlightenment, he offers another compelling study, one that relates more to his own life and times than to a life from the past.
In six artfully crafted chapters, Marsden sketches the tectonic shifts set in motion in the years immediately following World War II. He looks at common assumptions held by the leading cultural analysts of the age, intellectuals writing for middlebrow Americans. The protagonists were mostly white, male, well educated (especially at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia), centered in New York City, and descended from old-stock Protestant culture. Alongside these were a fair number of Jews, many of them émigrés from Nazi Europe. Leading figures included journalist Walter Lippmann, poet Archibald MacLeish, historian Arthur Schlesinger, magazine tycoon Henry Luce, culture critic Hannah Arendt, and especially sociologists Vance Packard, Erich Fromm, and David Reisman. Taken together, their views constituted what might be called the liberal mainline consensus.
The two books bear important similarities. Both are beautifully written and reveal imposing erudition. But they also bear important differences. While Jonathan Edwards is long, richly detailed, and largely descriptive, American Enlightenment is short, elegantly interpretative, and strongly argued. Another difference concerns the reaction from readers and critics. The Edwards biography won virtually unanimous praise. This latest offering likely will provoke both sustained praise and spirited debate (sometimes both at once).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Education History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Personal Finance * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The seven of us sit in a room in a maximum-security prison. I come and go weekly; they will be there for the rest of their lives. They tell me about their faith. One man has a calloused bump on his forehead, the result of his salat, bowing down to God, pressing his head into his rug, into the concrete floor of his cell: a dedication to prayer. “Allah found me in my cell,” he says. The other men nod their heads, even though they are not Muslims; they are Christians of various traditions: Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness. Yet each knows what it feels like for his God to find him in prison, regardless of profound differences in theological language and faith practices. When I’m with them, I’m within a religious pluralism unknown to me outside of prison.In Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison, Joshua Dubler explores this phenomenon of religious pluralism within U.S. prisons by spending time with the various faith communities that congregate in the chapel at the maximum-security prison in Graterford, Pennsylvania. From the chapel, Dubler tracks the religious practices of the faithful among the 3,500 men confined inside Graterford’s walls. His book is a tapestry of scenes from worship services, small group discussions, and conversations with imprisoned men who open their spiritual lives to him. A Roman Catholic chaplain describes his visitation of the forgotten men on death row as a “ministry of presence”: “to have somebody drop in . . . to show them that they’re remembered.” A correctional officer engages in “Christian apologetics” while policing the chapel. A Muslim prisoner named Baraka’s discussions and debates enlighten the author’s observations of incarcerated life.
Dubler shows up at Graterford as a budding ethnographer and becomes a man captured by friendships—by relationships mediated through religious encounters in prison. “How truly bizarre that this awful place,” he reflects, “should afford such profound pleasure to those who feel called to enter into it and partake in its overflowing meaningfulness.”
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Leaders of the Episcopal Church in Alabama were vocal in their belief that slavery was a benign institution. "Its members tended to be disproportionaately slaveowners," Vaughn said. "They believed there wasn't any discrepancy between the Christian message and slave ownership. They didn't see any conflict at all. They were blinded by their financial self-interests."
One of the towering but controversial figures in Alabama's church history was Bishop C.C.J. Carpenter, who was scolded by both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and by Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who took part in marches in Selma in 1965 and was killed in Hayneville protecting a black girl from a shotgun blast. Daniels defied Carpenter, coming to Alabama in spite of Carpenter's warning to outside agitators. Daniels and other Episcopal seminarians picketed Carpenter House, the diocesan headquarters in Birmingham, and wrote that "The Carpenter of Birmingham must not be allowed to forever deny the Carpenter of Nazareth," in a harsh letter to Carpenter.
"I think Carpenter was a great bishop in many ways," Vaughn said. "He's remembered as a kindly, warm grandfatherly figure. He increased membership; he increased the budget. He just didn't get it though when it came to the civil rights movement."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Solidarity with the persecuted Church is an obligation of Christian faith. Reflecting on how well each of us has lived that obligation is a worthy point on which to examine one’s conscience during Lent. And that brings me to a suggestion: Revive the ancient tradition of daily readings from the Roman Martyrology this coming Lent by spending 10 minutes a day reading John Allen’s new book, The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution (Image).
The longtime Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and CNN’s senior Vatican analyst, Allen has recently moved to the Boston Globe as associate editor, where he (and we) will see if talent and resources can combine to deepen a mainstream media outlet’s coverage of all things Catholic, both in print and on the Web. Meanwhile, Allen will continue the Roman work that has made him the best Anglophone Vatican reporter ever—work that has given him a unique perspective on the world Church, and indeed on world Christianity. His extensive experience across the globe, and his contacts with everyone who’s anyone in the field of international religious freedom issues, makes him an ideal witness to what he calls, without exaggeration, a global war on Christian believers.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Eschatology
In the Orthodox tradition to which Lewis is so obviously indebted, Jesus Christ is the face of God, and thus the ultimate sacrament and icon of God. He is the image and likeness of the invisible God who remains at least partially invisible even in him. This in turn accounts for the utter centrality of icons for the life of Orthodoxy. An icon is not an image that one looks at in order to order to glimpse the meaning of things as depicted by an artist. It is, instead, an image that looks at us. It is meant to reveal, to our mundane sight, a vision of the invisible and eternal world that everywhere envelops and transcends us. An icon is image that we are not meant to master, but that instead is meant to master us.
This desire to divinize the human world means that realistic proportions and perspectives are abandoned. The size of a person in an icon is usually determined by their importance and significance. A figure standing in the background can thus be larger than one in the foreground. Heads and haloes often overlap, for depth is of no real importance. The Incarnation has overthrown all ordinary dimensions and perspectives. Indeed, everything in the icon takes place in the forefront. In an Eastern icon, the vanishing point it is situated in front of the icon in an inverse perspective. The focus point thus moves out away from the icon toward the beholder, as the iconic figure comes forth to meet the viewer. "The result is an opening," declares Michel Quenot, "a radiating forth, while the vanishing point in an ordinary painting results in a convergence that closes up"
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[Jervis] Zimmerman paints a compelling portrait of a hard-working but combative parish priest, quick to take offense, and often at the storm center of controversy. Prescott was subjected to four successive heresy trials in Massachusetts between 1850 and 1852. Again, he was put on trial in Pennsylvania for his ritual practices at St. Clement’s in 1880. At the same time, his relations with Fr. Benson, superior of the SSJE, deteriorated; Benson secured Prescott’s resignation from St. Clement’s in 1880 and released him from his life vows in 1882. Prescott served a variety of parishes in his 53 years of ordained ministry, but often stayed no more than two or three years in one place. His longest tenure was as rector of the African-American parish of St. Luke in New Haven, where he served seven years until his retirement in 1900.
Always professing his loyalty to the Episcopal Church, in times of controversy Prescott also insisted on his rights according to the canons. At least twice he resigned as rector because of what he saw as vestry violations of his canonical prerogatives. When bishops tried to suppress his ritual practices, he argued that such practices were nowhere forbidden by the church’s formularies and that his duty was to defend his parish’s rights against infringement by low-church bishops, who tended to argue that what was not explicitly authorized was forbidden. In other words, Prescott consistently resisted rule by the personal whim of those in positions of ecclesiastical authority. Tellingly, his fundamental disagreement with Benson arose from the latter’s refusal to provide a written constitution for the SSJE despite earlier promises to do so.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Parishes TEC Polity & Canons * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Books * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Here I want to discuss Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers - and, in particular, Mansfield Park and Clouds of Witness - not as a literary critic, but as a moral philosopher.
Examining fiction is part of a trend in moral philosophy, especially in the work of Alasdair MacIntyre. In his book After Virtue, MacIntyre contrasted the subjectivist ethics of most modern philosophy with the older tradition of the virtues found in Aristotle, Aquinas and their heirs. He sought to re-establish the older tradition of the moral philosophy of the virtues. One of the key parts of his project is the narrative concept of the self as opposed to, for example, the empiricists' "bundle" concept of self - that is, I am a bundle of my sense impressions.
The consequences of this concept of personal identity for ethics is shown in a story about Bertrand Russell, a philosophical descendent of British empiricism. He was cycling across Grantchester meadow, and realised that he was no longer the same person he was ten years ago. The Russell of ten years ago had married; but the present day Russell, he reasoned, could not be bound by those promises since he was now a different person. The narrative concept of the self would insist that the Russell cycling across the meadow was the same person as the Russell who married ten years ago: personal identity is a story of an individual life through time and space, interlocked with the narratives of other individuals. Hence, this Russell is bound by his promise.
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Amazon is not just the “Everything Store,” to quote the title of Brad Stone’s rich chronicle of Bezos and his company; it’s more like the Everything. What remains constant is ambition, and the search for new things to be ambitious about.
It seems preposterous now, but Amazon began as a bookstore. In 1994, at the age of thirty, Bezos, a Princeton graduate, quit his job at a Manhattan hedge fund and moved to Seattle to found a company that could ride the exponential growth of the early commercial Internet. (Bezos calculated that, in 1993, usage climbed by two hundred and thirty thousand per cent.) His wife, MacKenzie, is a novelist who studied under Toni Morrison at Princeton; according to Stone, Bezos’s favorite novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day,” which is on the suggested reading list for Amazon executives. All the other titles, including “Sam Walton, Made in America: My Story,” are business books, and even Ishiguro’s novel—about a self-erasing English butler who realizes that he has missed his chance at happiness in love—offers what Bezos calls a “regret-minimization framework”: how not to end up like the butler. Bezos is, above all things, pragmatic. (He declined to be interviewed for this article.)
It wasn’t a love of books that led him to start an online bookstore. “It was totally based on the property of books as a product,” Shel Kaphan, Bezos’s former deputy, says. Books are easy to ship and hard to break, and there was a major distribution warehouse in Oregon. Crucially, there are far too many books, in and out of print, to sell even a fraction of them at a physical store. The vast selection made possible by the Internet gave Amazon its initial advantage, and a wedge into selling everything else. For Bezos to have seen a bookstore as a means to world domination at the beginning of the Internet age, when there was already a crisis of confidence in the publishing world, in a country not known for its book-crazy public, was a stroke of business genius.
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See what you make of the list especially in terms of works you think should have been there but are not curretnly on the list.
Rare references in Babylonian texts and representations from other parts of the Near East show that camels were known in the Age of the Patriarchs, about 2000-1500 BC. Such discoveries are rare because the camel was not at home in urban societies, but useful for long journeys across the steppe and desert.
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A couple of years ago, an out-of-print book published in 1972 by a long-dead British professor suddenly became a collector's item....
How exactly did a long-forgotten book suddenly become so prized? The cause was a ground-breaking lecture called Sugar: the Bitter Truth by Robert Lustig, professor of paediatric endocrinology at the University of California, in which Lustig hailed [John] Yudkin's work as ''prophetic''.
''Without even knowing it, I was a Yudkin acolyte,'' says Lustig, who tracked down the book after a tip from a colleague via an interlibrary loan. ''Everything this man said in 1972 was the God's honest truth and if you want to read a true prophecy you find this book... I'm telling you every single thing this guy said has come to pass. I'm in awe.''
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Central to the Anglo-Catholic School was the dynamic between folk culture and Christianity in the formation of the person. This was at the heart of Christendom, not some monolithic church-state entity that oppressed people. I see this perspective as also being a central feature of Evangelicalism, especially in its revivalist wing. It also strikes me that Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture misses these connections in part because Niebuhr is caught up in an American narrative of the fracturing of mainline Protestantism. Sociologists such as Peter Berger have repeatedly emphasized how the global Pentecostal and charismatic movements have become adept at navigating the forms of modernity without succumbing to disenchantment. This is because by emphasizing the Spirit’s role in creation and redemption evangelical revivalism and its offshoot of the Pentecostal and charismatic movement have advanced a program that both democratizes Christianity and inculturates it in a way that preserves and fosters folk culture. Festivals, musical forms, and other features of folk culture are not denounced as antiquated features of authoritarianism that seek to destroy autonomy, which seems to be what the Frankfurt School thought about folk culture.
One of the important contributions of Christopher Lasch is his criticism of the Frankfurt School’s solutions to modern life. These solutions have been taken up into certain theoretical accounts in which the ideas of gender and family promoted by folk culture become part of the problem and therefore need to be destroyed. Since religion was a powerful rationale supporting folk culture it has become part of the problem for the Frankfurt School and its modern disciples. Lasch’s criticisms reveal the deep suspicion of “the common man” behind the Frankfurt School’s analyses and the impact this had on historians like Richard Hofstadter. The rise of McCarthyism, according to Lasch, confirmed in the minds of many liberal critics like Hofstadter that mass movements mask ingrained hatred of the other and therefore control must be taken from the people and the folk cultures they foster.
One of the problems I have with Mark Noll’s analysis of the Evangelical Mind is an uncritical embrace of Richard Hofstadter’s ideas about populist movements.
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In the autumn of 2012, a year after becoming president of Davidson College, Carol Quillen gave a lecture about the intimacy of relationships with the dead. A scholar of Italian humanism by training, she read Machiavelli’s account of his nighttime journeys into the "ancient courts of ancient men," where, among the authors of antiquity, he was "not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their kindness answer me; and for four hours of time I do not feel boredom, I forget every trouble, I do not dread poverty, I am not frightened by death; entirely I give myself over to them."
The lecture was part of Davidson’s undergraduate humanities curriculum, a program with its own long history that now struggles to compete for students’ attention. Quillen’s job is to make the classic American liberal-arts college prosperous and relevant in a time of accelerated expectation and high expense....
In her exploration of humanism, she told me, she discovered the "experience of revelation through reading the words of people from a distant, alien age." Quillen remains devoted to the close reading of canonical texts. "Life is short," she said, "and those guys were smart." Quillen has a talent for combining academic eloquence with candor and self-doubt.
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Almost three in 10 children do not know that the story of the birth of Jesus is a Biblical tale, research by the Bible Society found.
And many others are unable to identify Adam and Eve or Noah’s Ark as religious stories.
Although many parents believe it is important for their children to be aware of what is written in the Bible, large numbers of youngsters have never read, seen or heard some of its most well-known stories.
The Bible Society said that these findings point to a decrease in Bible literacy and show that while many people still place great importance on the book, little is being done to promote it.''
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A lovely book has just come out, about some of the most lively and beautiful medieval sculpture in Britain. It is by Alex Woodcock, a stonemason, who has also published scholarly work on the art.
His new book (Impress Books, £9.99), illustrated in colour, is called Of Sirens and Centaurs. The odd thing is that there are, I’d argue, no sirens in it. Let me explain.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Art Books Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
You might think that we humans are special: no other species has, for example, landed on the moon, or invented the iPad. But then, I personally haven’t done those things either. So if such achievements are what makes us human then I must be relegated to the beasts, except in so far as I can catch a little reflected glory from true humans such as Neil Armstrong or Steve Jobs.
Fortunately, there are other, more inclusive, ideas around about what makes us human. Not long ago, most people (in the west) were happy with the account found in the Bible: we are made in the image of God – end of argument. But the theory of evolution tells a different story, one in which humans slowly emerged as a twig on the tree of life. The problem with this explanation is that it is much more difficult to say exactly what makes us so different from all the other twigs.
Indeed, in the light of new research into animal intelligence, some scientists have concluded that there simply is no profound difference between us and other species. This is the stance taken in new books by Henry Gee, palaeontology editor of the leading scientific journal Nature, and by animal behaviour expert Marc Bekoff. But other scientists of equal eminence argue the opposite: that new research is finally making the profound difference between humans and animals clear – and two of them, the psychologists Michael Tomasello and Thomas Suddendorf, have written new books purporting to tell us exactly what it is.
Read it all (if necessary, another link may be found there).
Read it all (an updated version of an earlier story).
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It was 700 years ago, many scholars believe—in the 12th year of Dante’s exile from Florence—that the Inferno first saw the light of day. Thirteen fourteen: the year has a sprightly sound, hinting at upcoming sequels, and the Italian l’anno mille trecento quattordici has just the right number of syllables (11) to form the first line of a Dantean tercet. I imagine a second year following and a third year rhyming until, year by year, carried along by Dante’s ingenious interlocking terza rima, we are brought to the present moment, duemila quattordici, still marveling at a poem that from link to link makes paradise rhyme with hell.
But does paradise rhyme with hell? Setting aside the cliché about the Inferno being more interesting than the Paradiso, any serious reader will find a deep unity of theme running throughout the hundred-canto trilogy, from Dante’s promise “to treat of the good that I found there” (Inferno 1:8) to the final canto, which T. S. Eliot deemed “the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach.” Eliot has yet to be proven wrong; the poem deserves its canonical status on a shelf below the Bible and above the ranks of merely literary classics. To borrow a word from Dante, the Divine Comedy, if we are willing to read it whole, imparadises the mind.
Though the poem has a deep unity, the tradition of its interpretation does not; and to read the Divine Comedy in English—ideally with the Italian close at hand—is to step into a stream roiled by rival literary and religious movements.
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The online superstore Amazon got its start selling books — and it's been getting into the publishing business as well, with imprints for genres like science fiction, romance and mystery.
Until now, though, it hasn't had its fingers in one of the biggest slices of the publishing pie: Christian books. That changed this past week, with the introduction of the Waterfall Press imprint.
Win Bassett is a writer and a seminarian at the Yale Divinity School. He tells NPR's Rachel Martin that Christian publishing is a $1.4 billion market, and many major publishers have Christian imprints. "So I guess Amazon thought that it's about time they get in the game, too."
Read or listen to it all.
Christians, Crouch contends, should embrace true power and use it as effectively as possible for God’s purposes. We must be “trustees,” vigorously guarding against cynicism and abuse of power, eager to take part in the renewal of institutional life, inside our churches and outside of them.
Crouch applies this way of thinking about embrace of power to a discussion of how Christians might deal constructively with issues like abortion and excessive incarceration rates. He defends evangelism even as he urges work for justice and peace. He also acknowledges the link between Christian teaching about power and questions of warfare and the military. But in this case he holds back. He mentions the debate between the Augustinian and Anabaptist traditions with respect to the use of force, only to say that because this territory is so “well-traveled,” he will not “retrace” it now. But a book on the Christian use of power certainly ought to weigh in on violence.
Overall, however, readers will find plenty of insight and inspiration here.
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C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), who lectured in English literature at Oxford for most of his life, was a prolific writer in many areas and a man who powerfully and eloquently defended Christianity. Half a century after his death many of his books remain bestsellers: one, Mere Christianity, sells a quarter of a million copies a year.
Why have Lewis's books endured? There are several reasons. For a start, he was a brilliant writer who used English to maximum effect. He was also an enormously intelligent and creative man capable of analysing problems from different angles, courageous enough to tackle difficult topics (for example, two of his books are called Miracles and The Problem of Pain) and creative enough to branch out into children's fantasy (the Narnia Chronicles). Yet although these are all important in explaining the lasting popularity of C. S. Lewis, I think there are other factors and they are all to do with how he saw the world.
First, Lewis was always intensely aware of the past. There is a tendency in our culture to dismiss dead authors as 'irrelevant'. Such views were alien to Lewis, a remarkably well-read man, even by the standards of his contemporaries at Oxford and Cambridge.
Read it all (I see it is also in this week's Church of England Newspaper on page 7).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Books Children * Theology Apologetics
Frustrations with the dollar’s dominance are growing. The global fallout from the Federal Reserve’s stimulus policies, followed by Washington’s willingness to take budget talks to the brink of default last year, have made many governments reassess their reliance on US economic policy.
There is a general wish to stop the dollar being, as Richard Nixon’s Treasury secretary once told anxious Europeans, “our currency, your problem”. But it is far from clear what the alternative will be.
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[David Bentley] Hart concentrates on the fundamental error of conceiving of God as some finite object in a universe of other objects: more powerful, yes, but falling within the same metaphysical order of being. As he says, the God of classical theism “is not merely one, in the way a finite object might be merely singular or unique, but is oneness as such, the one act of being and unity by which any finite thing exists and by which all things exist together.” In speaking about God, Hart uses the themes of being, consciousness, and bliss. But before turning to these topics, he points to the need to examine critically the “picture of the world,” the prevailing axiomatic cultural and intellectual assumptions, from which or through which much current discourse about God occurs.
The embrace of a materialist and mechanistic view of the world, taking its inspiration in many ways from the rise of modern science, results in a loss of the sense of transcendence, of a reality beyond, or perhaps better, fundamentally other than, the world of sense experience. As Hart observes, “in the age of the mechanical philosophy, in which all of nature could be viewed as a boundless collection of brute events, God soon came to be seen as merely the largest brute event of all.”
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Leslie Zukor was a 19-year-old student at Reed College studying prison rehabilitation programs when something jumped out at her.
While there were programs tackling drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, technical training and more, all of them were offered by faith-based organizations. Where were the options for those behind bars who are atheists, like her?
“Not all prisoners are religious, and I wanted them to know that to turn your life around and be a good and productive member of society does not require a belief in God,” she said. “I just thought, wow, it is time to see about getting other perspectives in there.”
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[Michael] Gilbreath (a CT editor at large) hearkens back to the 1963 Birmingham civil rights campaign, to the world of Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and other heroic Christian leaders. Today, we idolize these figures for leading a beleaguered people to the Promised Land. But as Birmingham Revolution makes clear, the civil rights movement was no slam dunk. Uncertainty, scarce resources, and outside hostility could have ground its progress to a halt.
The Birmingham campaign was pivotal. On the heels of defeat in Albany, Georgia, victory in Birmingham restored the movement's momentum. Failure could have crippled it, by drying up funding, discrediting the nonviolent method, and validating fears that the leaders were—take your pick—extremists, rabble-rousers, too Christian, not Christian enough, too Southern, or insufficiently urban.
How—amid the noise and ambiguity, the internal struggles and self-doubts, the bone-deep weariness and constant fear of death—did the Birmingham leaders maintain their focus? And how might their example instruct the church today? Gilbreath gives four answers.
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Like so many others, I just can't imagine my life without Winnie the Pooh.
I found his Encyclopedia Brittanica entry there.
Also found this from his February 1, 1956 obituary in the [London] Times (behind a paywall):
...it is for his nursery books that his name will be chiefly remembered. Pooh has become an international figure and stands out from countless animals of nursery literature as a classic. There must be in such a classic something that appeals to grown-ups, a quality that makes them wish to introduce the work to their children.
Holy Fire ignites fresh passion in evangelicals for the Spirit and fresh desire in charismatics for the Scriptures.
Whether you consider yourself a conservative evangelical or a charismatic/Pentecostal of some kind, R.T. Kendall's opus, Holy Fire, will empower you to go to the next level in your journey as a well-balanced believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
By the way, balance in the kingdom is not living in some lukewarm place between boredom and passion. It is not a little bit of Bible-based theology mingled with a little bit of Holy Spirit. Balance is desiring "all of the Word" and "all of the Spirit,” as the Word of God and the Spirit of God work together, not independently of each other. Kendall reminds us of this powerful truth on every page, concluding with Smith Wigglesworth's prophetic statement: "When the Word and Spirit come together, there will be the biggest movement of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed the world, has ever seen."
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Wars are violent, loud, and gruesome. But combat is fleeting, and for young troops, what remains is a lifetime of untangling the dense consequences of decisions and actions made (or not made) in uncompromising conditions. A single moment in combat can bring a soldier home with honor or send him back broken and ashamed, unprepared for what Washington Post staff writer David Finkel calls the “after-war.”
In Thank You for Your Service, Finkel exhaustively documents the course of the after-war for the members of an Army infantry battalion known as the 2-16 Rangers, stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. In his first book, The Good Soldiers (2009), Finkel chronicled the battalion’s bloody 15-month tour in Iraq. He spent eight months embedded with the unit and was present for many of the pivotal moments described in the book; 2-16 was responsible for patrolling the area where two Reuters journalists and several Iraqis were killed by U.S. helicopter fire in an attack that was recorded in a video and released by WikiLeaks under the title Collateral Murder.
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James Houston knew C.S. Lewis well during their time at Oxford, and here he comments on the great impact of Lewis on Christian spiritual formation.
Listen to it all, conducted by Bruce Hindmarsh.
Read it all (page 6).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * South Carolina
"Witnesses to the Light: An Adventure into God's Workmanship Past, Present and Future," was written and compiled by the Rev. John Harper, who was interim dean of Cathedral Church of the Advent in 2004-05.
"It took me two and a half years," Harper said. "It has been a labor of love. It has been a joy from the very beginning. Anytime you start to do something for the Lord, it works that way."
The 290-page book, nine by 12 inches with full-color photography, documents every window in the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. It also features every priest who served as dean or rector, and explanations for the needlepoint artwork and designs in the wood such as the altar shields.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Art Books Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * General Interest Photos/Photography
Perhaps most touching is her pride in her son, also called Percy and the only one of her children with Shelley to survive infancy. "Percy is growing up a very fine young man & developing tastes & talents that would remind you of his father – though he has not that touch that at once made Shelley angelic & unfortunate." After her son goes to Cambridge, she writes, "he is getting all that we could wish – he is getting very liberal – & has so much character & talent – though still shy – that I have every hope for his future happiness".
His sweet nature "repays me for how many years of sadness", she writes later, though she also admits: "I am mortified he is not taller."
Her own worsening health hampers the communication in later years. "Today I have been down stairs & taken an airing for the first time – I hope I shall have no relapse," she writes to Eliza in 1846. "This note looks blotty and invalidy – indeed my drive has tired me."
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Texas has seen the future of the public library, and it looks a lot like an Apple Store: Rows of glossy iMacs beckon. iPads mounted on a tangerine-colored bar invite readers. And hundreds of other tablets stand ready for checkout to anyone with a borrowing card.
Even the librarians imitate Apple’s dress code, wearing matching shirts and that standard-bearer of geek-chic, the hoodie. But this $2.3 million library might be most notable for what it does not have – any actual books.
That makes Bexar County’s BibiloTech the nation’s only bookless public library, a distinction that has attracted scores of digital bookworms, plus emissaries from as far away as Hong Kong who want to learn about the idea and possibly take it home.
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'God seized me by the scruff of the neck, slammed me against the nearest wall and shook me until my teeth rattled. I thought: 'Okay, what does God actually require of me?' '
--From an article in the Independent in 1993 (worth rereading in its entirety); also quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
Hollingworth’s basic thesis is that the child is father of the man. So he gives a great deal of space to Augustine’s formative years and tries to show how much they influenced him in later life. The main effect is to downplay the importance of his conversion, although Hollingworth, research fellow in the history of ideas at St. John’s College, Durham University (U.K.), makes no attempt to do that. He recognizes that everything Augustine tells us about himself is written in the light of his spiritual rebirth. But he points out that the bishop of Hippo’s concerns and general approach to intellectual matters remained the same as they had been before. Christianity is the answer to his searching, not a complete change of direction, and that made his works uniquely important. Augustine spoke not only for, but also to, a generation that was losing its bearings as the Roman Empire slowly collapsed. The old gods had failed, but in Christ, Augustine had found the key to understanding the ways of the universe. On that basis, he restructured his inherited culture and rewrote its history. The pagan idea that Rome represented the supreme triumph of reason and civilization gave way to the view that human life was an eternal struggle between good and evil, played out in the individual heart as much as on the world stage.
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The difference between Simeon and Herod lies not in understanding but in response: where Simeon replies to the news by joyously affirming, "we are bold to say that we have seen our salvation," Herod replies with blunt opposition: "I refuse to be taken in." With a sigh of deep regret, he orders the slaughter of the Israelite children.
Simeon the theologian may have found it dif5cult to accept the idea of God Incarnate, but for Herod it is impossible, because acceptance would require him to relinquish his position as the chief local instrument, in Judaea, of Romanitas and the Caesarist project. And this he lacks the strength of will to do.
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Jesus, Paul, food, charity and prayer were just some of the subjects examined in this year’s crop of books under the broad heading of religion. Some of the titles rank at the top of the year’s best books, regardless of topic. Others barely registered in the mainstream press but are lavishly praised in their own fields. Here’s Religion News Service’s list of the year’s most interesting religion books, numbered but not ranked.
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Theologians today exercise almost zero public influence. And yet, through the medium of children's literature and fantasy literature generally, a public theological debate of a kind continues to be conducted.
From George MacDonald in the Victorian era through G.K. Chesterton to the Inklings, an attempt has been made to re-present Christianity in the mode of what MacDonald already called "the fantastic imagination." If one judges by book sales figures, the avid readership of this literature must extend well beyond the numbers of those who go to church, although the latter group also have been perhaps much more profoundly shaped by this literary mode of reflection than by the work of conceptual theologians.
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The beauty of the site, [Justine] Roberts explains, is how it goes on growing. More than five million people visit the site every month, almost twice as many as a year ago. While there is an endless supply of young women having babies, those who joined years ago to discuss baby-led weaning (or BLW as Mumsnetters call it) tend never to leave. The stranglehold that the well-educated, part-time mother once had on the site is also loosening.
“You will still find people who are discussing incredibly esoteric PhD subjects on Mumsnet. But you will also find endless conversations about Downton Abbey,” Roberts says.
As for their politics, “screeching conservatism of Middle England” covers it no better than does “Islington, lentil-weaving, eat your own placenta”. There is no point in talking about a Mumsnet election, she says, as Mumsnetters don’t all vote one way. Yet despite such talk of diversity, Roberts spends half her life telling the media what “the community” thinks on an impressively wide range of subjects.
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(It is very difficult to set the stage for this scene, but some background will be helpful. Rayber is one of the novel's central characters and is strongly anti-Christian. He is looking as hard as he can for his nephew, Francis Tarwater, who has run away. This has led him to a small church service, likely a revival meeting, and he is watching what is occurring through a window. Rayber is unable to hear in one ear and in the other he wears a hearing device which sometimes vexes him. The "old man" is a reference to another key character in the novel, Mason Tarwater, whose death and desired burial form an important early part of the book. There is also a mention of Bishop who is Rayber's son and who appears to have Down's syndrome).
. . . A little girl hobbled into the spotlight.
Rayber cringed. Simply by the sight of her he could tell that she was not a fraud, that she was only exploited. She was eleven or twelve with a small delicate face and a head of black hair that looked too thick and heavy for a frail child to support. A cape like her mother's was turned back over one shoulder and her skirt was short as if better to reveal the thin legs twisted from the knees. She held her arms over her head for a moment. "I want to tell you people the story of the world," she said in a loud high child's voice. "I want to tell you why Jesus came and what happened to Him. I want to tell you how He'll come again. I want to tell you to be ready. Most of all," she said, "I want to tell you to be ready so that on the last day you'll rise in the glory of the Lord."
Rayber's fury encompassed the parents, the preacher, all the idiots he could not see who were sitting in front of the child, parties to her degradation. She believed it, she was locked tight in it, chained hand and foot, exactly as he had been, exactly as only a child could be. He felt the taste of his own childhood pain laid again on his tongue like a bitter wafer.
"Do you know who Jesus is?" she cried. "Jesus is the word of God and Jesus is love. The Word of God is love and do you know what love is, you people? If you don't know what love is you won't know Jesus when He comes. You won't be ready. I want to tell you people the story of the world, how it never known when love come, so when love comes again, you'll be ready."
She moved back and forth across the stage, frowning as if she were trying to see the people through the fierce circle of light that followed her. "Listen to me, you people," she said, "God was angry with the world because it always wanted more. It wanted as much as God had and it didn't know what God had but it wanted it and more. It wanted God's own breath, it wanted His very Word and God said, 'I'll make my Word Jesus, I'll give them my Word for a king, I'll give them my very breath for theirs.'
"Listen, you people," she said and flung her arms wide, "God told the world He was going to send it a king and the world waited. The world thought, a golden fleece will do for His bed. Silver and gold and peacock tails, a thousand suns in a peacock's tail will do for His sash. His mother will ride on a four-horned white beast and use the sunset for a cape. She'll trail it behind her over the ground and let the world pull it to pieces, a new one every evening."
To Rayber she was like one of those birds blinded to make it sing more sweetly. Her voice had the tone of a glass bell. His pity encompassed all exploited children--himself when he was a child, Tarwater exploited by the old man, this child exploited by parents, Bishop exploited by the very fact that he was alive.
"The world said, 'How long, Lord, do we have to wait for this?' And the Lord said, 'My Word is coming, my Word is coming from the house of David, the king.'" She paused and turned her head to the side, away from the fierce light. Her dark gaze moved slowly until it rested on Rayber's head in the window. He stared back at her. Her eyes remained on his face for a moment. A deep shock went through him. He was certain that the child had looked directly into his heart and seen his pity. He felt that some mysterious connection was established between them.
"'My Word is coming,'" she said, turning back to face the glare, "'my Word is coming from the house of David, the king.'"
She began again in a dirge-like tone. "Jesus came on cold straw. Jesus was warmed by the breath of an ox. 'Who is this?' the world said, 'who is this blue-cold child and this woman, plain as the winter? Is this the Word of God, this blue-cold child? Is this His will, this plain winter-woman?'
"Listen you people!" she cried, "the world knew in its heart, the same as you know in your hearts and I know in my heart. The world said, 'Love cuts like the cold wind and the will of God is plain as the winter. Where is the summer will of God? Where are the green seasons of God's will? Where is the spring and summer of God's will?'
"They had to flee into Egypt," she said in a low voice and turned her head again and this time her eyes moved directly to Rayber's face in the window and he knew they sought it. He felt himself caught up in her look, held there before the judgment seat of her eyes.
"You and I know," she said turning again, "what the world hoped then. The world hoped old Herod would slay the right child, the world hoped old Herod wouldn't waste those children, but he wasted them. He didn't get the right one. Jesus grew up and raised the dead."
Rayber felt his spirit borne aloft. But not those dead! he cried, not the innocent children, not you, not me when I was a child, not Bishop, not Frank! and he had a vision of himself moving like an avenging angel through the world, gathering up all the children that the Lord, not Herod, had slain.
"Jesus grew up and raised the dead," she cried, "and the world shouted, 'Leave the dead lie. The dead are dead and can stay that way. What do we want with the dead alive?' Oh you people!" she shouted, "they nailed Him to a cross and run a spear through His side and then they said, 'Now we can have some peace, now we can ease our minds.' And they hadn't but only said it when they wanted Him to come again. Their eyes were opened and they saw the glory they had killed.
"Listen world," she cried, flinging up her arms so that the cape flew out behind her, "Jesus is coming again! The mountains are going to lie down like hounds at His feet, the stars are going to perch on His shoulder and when He calls it, the sun is going to fall like a goose for His feast. Will you know the Lord Jesus then? The mountains will know Him and bound forward, the stars will light on His head, the sun will drop down at His feet, but will you know the Lord Jesus then?"
Rayber saw himself fleeing with the child to some enclosed garden where he would teach her the truth, where he would gather all the exploited children of the world and let the sunshine flood their minds.
"If you don't know Him now, you won't know Him then. Listen to me, world, listen to this warning. The Holy Word is in my mouth!
"The Holy Word is in my mouth!" she cried and turned her eyes again on his face in the window. This time there was a lowering concentration in her gaze. He had drawn her attention entirely away from the congregation.
Come away with me! he silently implored, and I'll teach you the truth, I'll save you, beautiful child!
Her eyes still fixed on him, she cried, "I've seen the Lord in a tree of fire! The Word of God is a burning Word to burn you clean!" She was moving in his direction, the people in front of her forgotten. Rayber's heart began to race. He felt some miraculous communication between them. The child alone in the world was meant to understand him. "Burns the whole world, man and child," she cried, her eye on him, "none can escape." She stopped a little distance from the end of the stage and stood silent, her whole attention directed across the small room to his face on the ledge. Her eyes were large and dark and fierce. He felt that in the space between them, their spirits had broken the bonds of age and ignorance and were mingling in some unheard of knowledge of each other. He was transfixed by the child's silence. Suddenly she raised her arm and pointed toward his face. "Listen you people," she shrieked, "I see a damned soul before my eyes! I see a dead man Jesus hasn't raised. His head is in the window but his ear is deaf to the Holy Word!"
Rayber's head, as if it had been struck by an invisible bolt, dropped from the ledge. He crouched on the ground, his furious spectacled eyes glittering behind the shrubbery. Inside she continued to shriek, "Are you deaf to the Lord's Word? The Word of God is a burning Word to burn you clean, burns man and child, man and child the same, you people! Be saved in the Lord's fire or perish in your own! Be saved in . . ."
He was groping fiercely about him, slapping at his coat pockets, his head, his chest, not able to find the switch that would cut off the voice. Then his hand touched the button and he snapped it. A silent dark relief enclosed him like shelter after a tormenting wind.
--The Violent Bear It Away (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1960), pp.129-132 [my emphasis]
You may need to enlarge the page to see it better; I sure did; KSH.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch Books * Theology Anthropology Christology Seminary / Theological Education
Dickens and Disney’s Tiny Tims both hope that those who feel pity for a poor crippled boy in church “… will think of Him who made lame men walk” at Christmas time.
This was a lesson that Dickens meant for adults, as well as children.
There is no separating the generosity we owe to others from the generosity God has shown to us by sending his son to give us new hearts. Christmas shouldn’t just bring out the best in us once a year; it should transform our lives—as it did for Scrooge. Dickens knew where he wanted to end his story, and finished it accordingly:
“Some laughed to see the alteration in [Scrooge] but he let them laugh ... he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed that knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”
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Mr. Allen is by no means the first writer to address this phenomenon, but he may be the best qualified. He has through the years established himself as among the best-informed commentators on the Vatican and the state of the Roman Catholic Church, and hearing so many contacts recount stories of persecution and discrimination has naturally sensitized him to anti-Christian campaigns, and by no means only those directed against Catholics.
The range of stories he tells is staggering and offers a compendium of modern-day heroes equal to anything in the church's long history. We are awed by the story of Catholic Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa, who died in 1998 trying to safeguard his flock from the mounting carnage in the wars engulfing Congo and Rwanda. Time and again, he stood face to face with oppressors, dictators and genocidaires, until finally some soldiers shot him in the streets.
Mr. Allen's main point, though, is less to report the persecutions than to ask in bafflement why the West seems to care so little about them.
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It's unclear why Driscoll waited until now to publicly address the matter. The first accusations of plagiarism were made by syndicated radio host Janet Mefferd on a November 21 broadcast. She subsequently accused Driscoll of plagiarizing in two other books. Mefferd’s interview generated a firestorm, to which the radio host responded by producing evidence on her blog to support her accusations....
For three weeks, Pastor Driscoll remained mum. Repeated attempts by several journalists including myself to contact Mars Hill Communications Manager Justin Dean were ignored.
In the meantime, leaders within the evangelical movement began to openly criticize Driscoll. Baptist professor Collin Garbarino gave Driscoll a proverbial “F” and said, “I’ve failed students for less flagrant plagiarism.” Christian scholar Carl Trueman blamed the affair on “the celebrity culture which has so corrupted the young, restless and reformed movement.” Pastor Jared C. Wilson accused Driscoll of a “trajectory of pride.” And author Andy Crouch of “Christianity Today” said Driscoll’s real problem was not plagiarism, but rather idolatry.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Books Law & Legal Issues Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Last month marked the 50th anniversary of a bizarre day in history. Three men of significant importance each died on November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy, author Aldous Huxley, and author and scholar C.S. Lewis.
On that day, the developed world (appropriately) halted at the news of the assassination of the United States’ 35th president. The front page of The New York Times on Saturday morning, the day after the tragic shooting, read, “Kennedy Is Killed by Sniper as he Rides in Car in Dallas; Johnson Sworn in on Plane,” and virtually every other news service around the world ran similar coverage and developed these stories for days and weeks following.
Huxley’s death, meanwhile, made the front page of The New York Times the day after Kennedy’s coverage began. The English-born writer spent his final hours in Los Angeles, high on LSD. His wife, Laura, administered the psychedelic drug during the writer's final day battling cancer, honoring his wishes to prepare for death like the characters in his novels Eyeless in Gaza and Island. Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a haunting futuristic world where a sovereign, global government harvests its tightly controlled social order in glass jars; the Times obituary writer declared that Huxley’s well-known book “set a model for writers of his generation.”
The news of Lewis’s death, though, didn't appear in print until Nov. 25, and it appeared in the normal obituary section of The New York Times weekday paper.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books History Religion & Culture * Theology Apologetics
For all of my cockiness about non-belief when I was young, I had a sneaking suspicion that as I grew older and the prospect of Crossing the Rainbow Bridge grew ever closer, I would start moving back to belief. Better take out an insurance ticket just in case God exists, although if He exists and turns out to be a Jehovah’s Witness then all bets are off. At least I will have the compensation of seeing the Pope trying to dig himself out of an even deeper hole than mine. The funny thing, however, is that as I grow older (I am now in my seventies), if anything my feeling that non-belief is right for me grows ever stronger. I am sure that at least in part it is psychological. Having had one headmaster in this life, I don’t want another one in the next. But I think my feeling is also bound up with what my work on the books on atheism have taught me, together with the insights of Clifford about the morality of belief. I truly don’t know if there is anything more, but that is okay. What would not be okay, morally, would be pretending that there was something more even though I didn’t really think there was adequate evidence, or conversely pretending that there is nothing more, perhaps rather pathetically trying to win the approval of today’s very public atheists.
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Michael O. Emerson's review begins this way:
So you want to have a multiracial, multicultural church. Music, you decide, is an important vehicle to get there.This one looks very interesting--check it out.
But what type of music? This is the core question of Gerardo Marti's fascinating new book, Worship Across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation (Oxford University Press), and one that occupies the minds of many a Christian leader attempting to do multiethnic ministry.
Marti's answer is shocking....It doesn't matter what type(s) of music.
“There is not and never will be a ‘definitive’ interpretation of the coming of war: each writer can only offer a personal view”, Hastings contends. The three under review describe in ever more detail what it was like, but only consider in the most broad terms what the war was about and why Europe’s people engaged so wholeheartedly in it. After reading them, one despairs of ever being able to break the distorting lens of the Second World War that prevents our understanding the First. Churchill’s legacy in particular, both as Britain’s successful later war leader and as a contentious popular historian of the war in which he did conspicuously less well, remains pernicious.
The war’s course and outcomes were rooted in the events of 1914 – the French victory on the Marne, Serbia’s repulse of Austria’s invasion, Russia’s defeat at Tannenberg, the Royal Navy’s hold on the North Sea and the decision to expand the British army. There is much more to be said, although it remains to be seen what impact extensive historical revisionism on popular motivation and the military conduct of the war, which has been developing for several decades, will have on the history wars. It does not seem to be riding the crest of the first wave, and perhaps it will not be until the centenaries have passed that a more nuanced understanding of the war will be established. Should Great War historians despair? Boredom may set in, and publishers may feel they have done enough by 1918. Until then, the revisionist view will certainly vie for credibility and acceptance with the over-familiar story vividly retold here. Hastings and Mallinson both acknowledge its existence and dabble with it, but there is an obvious reluctance to waver from familiar paths.
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Oxford University Press in the United Kingdom will publish a five-volume series about Anglicanism, an undertaking that has been described as “an unprecedented international project in religious history.”
The project will be led by Murdoch University in Perth, which has a reputation for being one of Australia’s leading research institutions.
It marks the first time in its five centuries of publishing that Oxford University Press—a department of the University of Oxford—has agreed to support “such an extensive history of one Christian denomination,” said series editor Rowan Strong in a press statement issued by Murdoch University and published by the Anglican Communion News Service.
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“This is a big old ship, Bill. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you.”--J.F. Powers’ Wheat that Springeth Green (New York: New York Review Books Classics edition of the 1988 original, 2000), p. 170
God speaks to us through His Church. We all need two conversions. We need to be converted from sin and take Christ for our Saviour, and to be converted to the Church and have her for our Mother. If a person has only experienced one of these operations he is only a half converted man.--Bishop Charles Grafton, Catholicity and the Vincentian Rule from The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton, Volume 6 (B. Talbot Rogers ed., New York: Longmans, Green, 1914), p. 184
Mother Church, like any other mother, expects her young children whom she gathers about her knees and teaches them her Catechism, to believe what she says, because she sits in the seat of authority and is wiser than they. But with true solicitude for their welfare, she desires them not to remain in the infant class, and believe merely because she says so, but to exercise their own powers of reason and understanding and come to see that her teaching is true for themselves. So in corroboration of her teaching she points them to the Holy Scriptures and Tradition. "If any one wishes," says St. Vincent, "to fortify himself with the Catholic faith" (notice he does not say demonstrate the truth of it), "he must do so by the authority of the Divine Law and the tradition of the Catholic Church."
Do you know which words entered the English language around the same time you entered the world? Use our OED birthday word generator to find out! We’ve scoured the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to find words with a first known usage for each year from 1900 to 2004. Simply select the relevant decade and click on your birth year to discover a word which entered the English language that year.
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It is by no means easy to make an accurate summary of that character and truth revealed by Jesus Christ, even if we do not omit those parts of the records which we personally think distasteful or discordant. In this “Christian” country, we nearly all have some pre-conceived, even though vague, idea of the Christ-character, and we need to be on our guard against “reading back” into His deeds and words what is already in our minds about Him. Men have tamed and modified and “explained” so much of His message that a great deal of its edge has been blunted. Nor does our reverence for the superb literary quality of the familiar Authorized Version do anything but hinder. Truth that should be regarded as FACT comes to be regarded as “a beautiful thought”: at best it is “a religious truth” rather than a reliable and workable fact on which to act and build. A “fact” of psychological research or of medical science for example is accepted by the mind as being more “true” than a statement of Christ. Yet if Christ was God, it should be the other way round. It may help, therefore, to re-state the basic principles of Jesus Christ in somewhat unfamiliar form.--J.B. Phillips,Your God is Too Small (New York: Macmillan, 1961) [emphasis mine]
The truth taught by Jesus Christ is the right way to live. It is not primarily a religion, not even the best religion, but God Himself explaining in terms that men can readily grasp how life is meant to be lived.
First, beyond naming winners in our ten regular categories, we've christened from among those winners our first-ever CT Book of the Year: God's Forever Family, Larry Eskridge's history of the Jesus People movement. Now, this is no exact science. And really, we wouldn't have gone wrong laying the extra laurel atop any of the competitors, or a dozen other books besides. You may have your own favorite to recommend. But we can't see any harm in generating buzz—or provoking debate—around a book our judges praised for its originality, meticulous research, and colorful character sketches.
Second, speaking of those judges, we've lifted the veil of anonymity from their comments on the winning books. Our judges—best-selling authors, experts in their fields, and simply thoughtful people—have strained their eyes and brains reading and evaluating a thousand or more pages. They deserve to have their labors recognized. And you deserve to have your curiosity satiated.
And third, we've introduced a new awards category targeted at readers of Her.meneutics, CT's popular women's blog.
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Held’s new book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence, requires focused attention; it is an academic work with scores of footnotes. But it is also for the general reader who wants to know what exactly Heschel is trying to say in the sometimes repetitive maze of his beautiful utterances. What does Heschel mean when he insists, over and over again, that “God is in need of man?” What kind of reminder or awakening is Heschel proposing when he tells us, “We do not have to discover the world of faith, we only have to recover it. It is not terra incognita, an unknown land; it is a forgotten land.”
Held explains, patiently and clearly. He places Heschel’s thought against the background of other Jewish texts and thinkers from Maimonides to the Kotzker Rebbe, but also explains him in relationship to the Christian thought of his time: Merton, Underhill, Barth, Brunner, and others. How does a Jewish thinker differ from his Christian contemporaries, with whom he was close? (Heschel delivered a eulogy at the funeral of his friend, the great Christian thinker Reinhold Niebuhr).
Held’s emphasis is not on Heschel’s life but on his thought. How does he use the idea of ‘hester panim,’ the concealment of God, to show God’s presence?
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Less than five percent of current world languages are in use online, according to a recent study by prominent linguist András Kornai -- and the Internet may be helping the other 95 percent to their graves.
Those startling conclusions come from a paper published in the journal PLOSOne in October titled, appropriately, “Digital Language Death.” The study sought to answer a question that’s both inherently fascinating and little-discussed: How many languages exist online? (And, on the flip side, how many don’t?)
For reference, at least 7,776 languages are in use in the greater offline world. To measure how many of those are also in use on the Internet, Kornai designed a program to crawl top-level Web domains and catalog the number of words in each language. He also analyzed Wikipedia pages, a key marker of a language’s digital vibrancy, as well as language options for things like operating systems and spell-checkers.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Books Globalization History Poetry & Literature Science & Technology * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Stations of the Heart: Parting with a Son, by Richard Lischer. Lischer, a theologian at Duke Divinity School, acknowledges that “a father has no business writing a book about his son’s death.” But as the review in the Century noted, this honest but disciplined narrative “looks beyond one man’s death to the death we all will face” and manages to be “personal without self-absorption, profoundly emotional without sentimentality.” It is a moving testimony to a father’s love and to Adam Lischer’s life, and especially to Adam’s way of meeting death at the age of 33, supported by the prayers and rituals of the church—which is a memorable witness for every reader.
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...it is also important to recognise how much the themes of the Narnia books are interwoven with what he was thinking and writing in other contexts around the same time, and with material he had already published in the 1940s — as well as the fact that the first seeds of the actual Narnia narrative seem to have been sown as early as 1939. For example: his 1946 book, The Great Divorce, foreshadows many of the ideas in the Narnia stories — most particularly a theme that Lewis insists on more and more as his work develops, the impossibility of forcing any person to accept love and the monumental and excruciating difficulty of receiving love when you are wedded to a certain picture of yourself. It is this theme that emerges most clearly in his last (and greatest) imaginative work, the 1956 novel, Till We Have Faces. These issues are very much the issues that Lewis is trying to work out in a variety of imaginative idioms from the early 1940s onwards — the problems of self-deception above all, the lure of self-dramatising, the pain and challenge of encounter with divine truthfulness. What Narnia seeks to do, very ambitiously, is to translate these into terms that children can understand. And as to why Lewis decided to address such an audience, there is probably no very decisive answer except that he had a high view of children’s literature, a passion for myth and fantasy and a plain desire to communicate as widely as possible.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books Children Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
Some of the rarest and most fragile religious texts in the Vatican and Bodleian libraries, including ancient bibles and some of the oldest Hebrew manuscript and printed books, are being placed online in a joint project by the two great libraries, which will eventually create an online archive of 1.5m pages.
The website launched on Tuesday with funding from the Polonsky Foundation includes the first results of the four-year project, including the Bodleian's 1455 Gutenberg Bible, one of only 50 surviving copies of the first major book printed in the west with metal type.
The site will also host a growing collection of scholarly essays, and interviews with the Oxford and Vatican librarians, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said the digitisation was of huge international significance.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Books Education History Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe Italy
British novelist and essayist Francis Spufford’s spirited defense of the Christian religion is in some ways like eavesdropping on a missionary conversation with the pagans of antiquity.
“Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense” — is the latest attempt at an ancient literary form, the Christian apology, and it makes its appearance in the United States more than a year after it was published in England.
Spufford’s defense of Christianity is aimed primarily at what he calls “godless Europeans,” the post-Enlightenment elites who tend to regard religion with bemusement as a silly fairy tale, if not with open hostility as a dangerous superstition.
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The evening after receiving [his editor's negative] verdict [on a submission he made], Mr. Hijuelos and his girlfriend at the time, Lori Carlson, sat together in their living room in Upper Manhattan, depression suffusing the air. Finally, Mr. Hijuelos told Ms. Carlson, “O.K., I’m really going to the heart of Christmas then.”
Mr. Hijuelos headed into his home office the next morning and started to work. Some of his writing days ended with his elbows bloody from hours of toiling at the desk. Ultimately, however, he produced what is surely one of the most fully achieved novels about religion, “Mr. Ives’ Christmas.”
It is, in distillate, the Book of Job transposed to Morningside Heights in the late 20th century. The title character, Edward Ives, is a commercial artist possessed of what he calls “a small, if imperfect, spiritual gift.” That gift finds expression in part through Mr. Ives’s son, Robert, who aspires to enter the priesthood.
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At the end of...[the party], though, after most of the guests had gone home, my sister had gone to sleep after marathoning all then-7 of the Harry Potter films the night before and my folks were busy chatting with my aunt and uncle, I headed to the stack of my new books and, almost at random, chose one of the titles from my American Literature survey course: Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos.
I read the book in most of 2 days, instantly captivated by the story of a man, himself an orphan, trying to put his life back together after the murder of his aspiring priest son, and thinking back over the story of his own life as a honorary member of New York’s Cuban community of the 40s and ’50s, despite not really being Cuban himself; a simple story, Hijuelos captured it in poetic, delicate writing that painting broad, vibrant brushstrokes in your head.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books Poetry & Literature Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Caribbean Cuba
Perhaps the significance of Kennedy is ultimately found in his tragic and untimely death and that is why November 22 has been singled out in his memory, eclipsing Lewis' death. But it seems to me that Lewis' significance is found in his life and work. JFK's importance is found in what could have been had he lived (and perhaps a little too romanticized in the process), as well as the continued controversy generated by conspiracy theorists as to how many assassins were involved that day. But I think Lewis' importance is found in not what might have been, but in what he contributed prior to his death, challenging us to rethink our view of the world and the significance of a "mere Christianity" in which an orthodox understanding of Jesus was essential, while poking at that mere Jesus with some new and different questions.
November 22 seems to have been dedicated to JFK by default because of his untimely death. Lewis continues to be read and discussed and pondered in an ever-continuing stream of new books, in coffee shops and pubs and taverns and at conferences. The significance of Lewis' contribution cannot be limited to one day a year....
Lewis' death may get no attention, but his life and work cannot be eclipsed.
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I’m a university professor. I have no tolerance for this kind of nonsense. I’ve failed students for less flagrant plagiarism. So, it’s my duty, as a member of my professing profession, to give Driscoll an “F.”
Mark Driscoll, you have failed.
I’ve dealt with a number of plagiarists, and it seems to me that plagiarism stems from two issues. I’ll let you decide which problem Driscoll suffers from, because there obviously is a problem.
1. Laziness. Writing is hard work, so some writers don’t want to do it right. Laziness also leads to procrastination. Getting behind schedule causes writers to cut corners and plagiarize.
2. Ignorance. I don’t mean ignorance of the conventions of proper citation. Everyone knows not to steal other people’s words. I mean ignorance of the topic.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History, Robert Tracy McKenzie takes the historical challenges posed by the Pilgrims as his starting point. I cannot recall ever reading a book quite like The First Thanksgiving. It is an entertaining retelling of a seminal moment in American history—and a remarkable reflection on how Christians should handle history in general.
American evangelicals seem to have reached a crisis point over the study of history, especially the history of the American founding. For decades, many evangelicals have turned to popular history writers who have presented America, especially of the colonial and Revolutionary era, as a straightforwardly Christian nation. In response, a respected cohort of academic evangelical historians, led by Mark Noll and George Marsden (my doctoral advisor), have concurrently mapped out a more complex view of religion's importance in American history.
While those academic evangelicals at least implicitly disagreed with parts of the "Christian America" thesis, they have struggled to compete with the popular audience won by writers such as Peter Marshall and, most controversially, David Barton. Barton's recent book, The Jefferson Lies, which presented Thomas Jefferson as embracing relatively orthodox Christian views until late in life, unleashed an unprecedented torrent of evangelical and conservative criticism, precipitating the decision by Barton's publisher, Thomas Nelson, to pull the book from distribution in 2012.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A few months before C. S. Lewis died in 1963, he predicted to Walter Hooper, a young American friend, that sales of his books would decline rapidly after his death. Hooper countered: “No, they won’t. And you know why? Your books are too good, and people are not that stupid.”--From this past Saturday's London Times
Lewis was wrong. Hooper, who became Lewis’s biographer and editor, was right. In the 50 years since Lewis died — at the same hour that John F. Kennedy was assassinated — sales of his books have not only not declined, they have rocketed.
The Chronicles of Narnia sell about three million copies annually worldwide in more than 40 languages.
Aldous Huxley never attracted [the] kind of attention [that C.S. Lewis did]. And yet there are good reasons for regarding him as the more visionary of the two. For one of the ironies of history is that visions of our networked future can be bracketed by the imaginative nightmares of Huxley and his fellow Etonian George Orwell. Orwell feared that we would be destroyed by the things we fear – the state surveillance apparatus so vividly evoked in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Huxley's nightmare, set out in Brave New World, his great dystopian novel, was that we would be undone by the things that delight us.
Huxley was a child of England's intellectual aristocracy. His grandfather was Thomas Henry Huxley, the Victorian biologist who was the most effective evangelist for Darwin's theory of evolution. (He was colloquially known as "Darwin's Bulldog".) His mother was Matthew Arnold's niece. His brother, Julian and half-brother Andrew both became distinguished biologists. In the circumstances it's not surprising that Aldous turned out to be a writer who ranged far beyond the usual preoccupations of literary folk – into history, philosophy, science, politics, mysticism and psychic exploration. His biographer wrote: "He offered as his personal motto the legend hung around the neck of a ragged scarecrow of a man in a painting by Goya: Aún aprendo. I am still learning." He was, in that sense, a modern Voltaire.
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“The great appeal that Lewis has today is that he has an extraordinary range of a diversity of genre in communicating truth,” said James Houston, one of the founders of the respected Christian institution Regent College in Vancouver, who ran in Lewis’ circles while they were both at Oxford.
“He used fairy tales, mythology, poetry, science fiction, children’s stories, scholarly essays. He used the whole gamut to communicate the depths of truth.”
This slender, charming book must be approached with a special tact. To read it feels a little like an intrusion on inwardness itself. The volume contains, alongside a lightly corrected transcription, a facsimile of the Sterling notebook in which Flannery O’Connor, just 20 years old, began a journal addressed to God. Written in her neat hand, it is reproduced complete with the empty final pages (her concluding words are “there is nothing left to say of me”) and not omitting a bit of musical notation floating on the inside of the back cover. The prayers, attempts at prayer and meditations on faith and art contained in it were written in 1946 and 1947, while O’Connor was a student in Iowa. The brilliance that would make her fictions literary classics is fully apparent in them.
The complexity of O’Connor’s thinking, together with the largely flawless pages in her hand, suggest that these entries may be fair copies of earlier drafts. Clearly O’Connor’s virtuosity makes her self-conscious. Young as she was, new to writing, she could only have been pleased, even awed, at having produced these beautiful sentences. Perhaps nothing written is finally meant to go unread, even if the reader is only a creature of the writer’s mind, an attentive and exacting self that compels refinements of honesty.
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The Bible is "the most dangerous book on Earth," George Bernard Shaw famously warned a century ago. Today, Shaw's words ring true—literally—for the 24 million people of North Korea. Possession of a Bible is a one-way ticket to the gulag or worse.
The worst came true this month for a handful of North Koreans who were caught with Bibles, which are outlawed by the communist regime. The Christians were among a group of 80 North Koreans who were executed by firing squad on Sunday, Nov. 3, according to a report in the South Korean daily, JoongAng Ilbo. Those put to death also included North Koreans accused of watching South Korean DVDs that had been smuggled into the North, or of distributing pornography. The ruling Kim family regime controls every aspect of citizens' lives, including what information reaches them from the world outside North Korea's borders. Bibles, foreign DVDs, the Internet, cellphones that can make international calls—all are banned.
The executions were public and took place in seven cities across the country, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.
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[In Norman Geisler's book]...the chapters are admirably clear and succinct. Christians called upon to answer the typical prattle of the village (or dorm room) atheist will find it useful. An electronic copy would provide particularly quick and handy reference.
On the other hand, while Geisler is clearly a capable and experienced pastor and peppers his text with practical anecdotes, he suffers from the malady of most writers on the intellectual problem of theodicy: he fails to address the visceral response that suffering and evil provokes in Christian and secular hearts alike. On the whole, I would not hand his book to a grieving parent....
A somewhat deeper chord is struck by Terence Fretheim’s Creation Untamed, which limits itself to the question of natural evil. Fretheim, Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, brings an Old Testament scholar’s background and sensibility to the question, building his case mainly around the Genesis accounts of creation and the flood, and the book of Job.
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For members of St. Michaels (Charleston, S.C.), there is a rare treat in store… Peter will be attending a book signing as part of the release of his latest book From Dry Bones: Reflections on an Unpredictable Life. In his new memoir, Peter takes us behind the scenes of his life—a life of tireless work for the Lord, filled with twists and turns, and a resume of Christ-focused efforts that can be attributed only to a man filled (and energized) by the Holy Spirit. - See more at: http://www.stmichaelschurch.net/peter-moores-new-book-special-book-signing-sunday-november-17th/#sthash.dd99qK3m.dpuf
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books * South Carolina * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
The essays in The Future of Biblical Interpretation originated in a conference held in honor of Anthony C. Thiselton, who is well known for his important work in hermeneutics and New Testament interpretation. After an opening essay by Thiselton on “The Future of Biblical Interpretation and Responsible Plurality in Hermeneutics,” the contributors look at the issues from a variety of angles—theological, scriptural, kerygmatic, historical, critical, ecclesial and relational. The result is an engaging conversation exploring responsible and productive interpretation of the Bible. A must-read for anyone seriously engaged in biblical scholarship today.Read the rest, and you just have to love the subtitle.
Turner, a professor of theology at Yale, has written a fine, idiosyncratic introduction to the saint and his mind that emphasizes what he calls Thomas' materialism — by which he certainly does not mean the currently fashionable and conceptually impoverished notion that nothing but matter exists. Rather, Thomas set himself against the prevailing Platonic-Augustinian "excessively spiritual account of human nature" that seemed to him to neglect our situatedness in the world — this world, here, with tomatoes and sisters and backaches. For Plato and his medieval Christian epigones, a soul was a different kind of substance from the body; we still tend to think of soul in these terms, whether we believe in it or not. Thomas denies that a soul is a "thing" that one "has" at all. It is rather the "substantial form," in the Aristotelian sense, of the body — what accounts for its being alive in the way it is. Following Aristotle and Avicenna, Thomas rejects substance dualism, arguing that human beings are "wholly animal," not part animal and part spiritual, like a Prius — the soul is not "in" the body, but is one with it as form, as act and potency are one.
I can't do justice to Turner's subtle explication of Thomas' "Aristotelian physical anthropology" — and of his controversial God-centric theology in the "Summa theologiae"; his "Five Ways"; his conception of friendship and the Trinity and the Eucharist; and much else — in a brief review. Despite a few missteps in the prose — and a surprising overreliance upon lazy tropes of the terrorists-bad-CIA-good variety — Turner's introduction is full of grace notes, such as his decision to contrast Thomas' sense of "abstraction" with Locke's empiricism, in order to flesh out the argument that the intellect "cannot be a material agent" (today's pop neuroscientists would do well to consult the "Summa" on this point). And Turner deftly demonstrates why Thomas' Third Way — the argument for God's existence from necessity — does not commit the basic logical fallacy that many modern philosophers have contended it does.
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REZA ASLAN (Author, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth): I think it’s incorrect to say that the followers of Jesus, and certainly the church fathers in the second and third centuries, changed Jesus’ message. I think that’s an incomplete statement. The fact of the matter is that Jesus’ message was in a constant state of change. Remember, none of these words were written down until, at the earliest, 70 A.D. That’s about 40 years after Jesus’ death when the first Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, was written. And the Gospel of Mark was not written until after the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the period in which Judaism itself had become a kind of pariah religion, an illegitimate cult, in the Roman Empire. So, the Gospel writers at that point began this process that was really, in many ways, already underway, which was to sort of transform and redefine, reapply Jesus’ message, particularly for a non-Jewish audience. And so that process really continued until the middle of the fourth century, when, as a result of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, an attempt was made to actually create a sense of orthodoxy. But really, up until that point, you can’t say that there was any such thing as Christianity. What we really see is Christianities, in fact, many, many dozens of versions of it.
I’ve had a unique experience with Jesus, both as a worshipper and as a scholar studying him. I feel like it’s given me a different kind of perspective. On the one hand, knowing what it is to worship Jesus has given me a profound sense of respect for the faith of Christianity....
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Did you grow up reading C.S. Lewis?
I've had a fascination with Lewis since my teens, (but) I didn't grow up reading Narnia. I came rather late to Narnia, but I read quite a bit of Lewis as a teenager—Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce and some of the other books. As a schoolboy in the final year of high school, I read his book on Paradise Lost, which was very important for my English studies.
What was your introduction to the world of Narnia? What captivated you about it?
I suppose I read the Narnia books mostly as a student, and I enjoyed the wit of the books. Humor is very visible in them. I enjoyed the energy of the characterization.
And I just found myself very, very deeply moved by some passages, and I identify a lot with those moments of encounter—where you discover the truth about yourself in the face of God. Those are some of the most moving passages, because Lewis is particularly good at giving you a sense of joy in the presence of God.
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Millburn Township resident T. Felder Dorn will present his latest book, "Challenges on the Emmaus Road: Episcopal Bishops Confront Slavery, Civil War, and Emancipation," Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Millburn Free Public Library, 200 Glen Ave....
Dorn, who grew up as a Southern Baptist in South Carolina, converted to the Episcopalian faith soon after he landed his first faculty position at Sewanee: The University of the South, an institution of the Episcopal Church, located in Tennessee. "Challenges on the Emmaus Road" covers the period between 1840 and 1875 as it examines the words and actions of Episcopal bishops of that era, first concerning slavery, and then concerning the events and issues spawned by that institution. The responses to these events and issues by both Southern and Northern bishops are discussed.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Whenever I plan a Maundy Thursday service, I get annoyed with the lectionary. Why isn’t the second reading 1 John 4? I get that Paul’s account of the words of institution for the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians is assigned to cover for the lack of an account in John’s Gospel. Still, the day is named for the New Commandment. Jesus, gearing up for the most terrifying experience he and his disciples will ever know, commands them to love one another. It’d be nice if 1 John’s gloss—that such love casts out fear—also made the cut.
This fairly arbitrary objection may be mine alone. But lots of us worship planners have pet frustrations with the Revised Common Lectionary (1992). My Facebook newsfeed—a place much like the wider world, if half the population went to seminary—attests to these regularly.
Why pair these readings? Why skip those verses? How will we survive an entire month on Jesus the long-winded bread of life? Does Christ’s appearance to Thomas really need to come up every Low Sunday (leaving young associate ministers—preaching while the senior pastor takes the week off—with thick files of sermons on doubt or woundedness or bodily resurrection)?
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When he died on Nov. 22, 1963 hardly a soul blinked in Northern Ireland where he was born or in England where he spent most of his working life as one of the world’s greatest Christian apologists.
Clive Staples Lewis was a week short of 65 when he suffered a heart attack at his home in Oxford. The obituary writers barely noticed his demise, in part because he died on the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
British indifference to Lewis half a century ago will be examined at a one-day seminar at Wheaton College on Nov. 1, co-sponsored by the Marion E. Wade Center, the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals and Wheaton College’s Faith and Learning program.
Lewis may be the most popular Christian writer in history, with millions of copies of his books sold, the vast majority in the United States where his influence is far greater than in his native country.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Books * Theology Apologetics
Since its 2004 release, Ms. [Sarah] Young’s “Jesus Calling,” a collection of 365 short daily “devotionals” interlaced with Bible passages, has sold nine million copies in 26 languages. In the first half of 2013, it outsold “Fifty Shades of Grey.” She has written two follow-up devotionals, as well as tie-in books for children and teenagers and a “Jesus Calling"-themed Bible.
Most impressive is that Ms. Young has become a lucrative brand while granting almost no interviews and making no author appearances. Hobbled by Lyme disease and other health problems, she mostly sticks close to home. There are almost no public photographs of her, and she will not talk by telephone....
The October issue of Christianity Today, which is like the People magazine for evangelical Christians, contains a long article that seems to float the possibility that Ms. Young’s writings are heretical, and quotes several theologians who have concerns.
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