Friday, March 16, 2012

The Moon

Taken with my iPhone through the eye piece of a $30 telescope.


Warfield on the Essence of Christianity

Quoted from Carl Trueman’s post of the same name:
It belongs to the very essence of the type of Christianity propagated by the Reformation that the believer should feel himself continuously unworthy of the grace by which he lives. At the center of this type of Christianity lies the contrast of sin and grace; and about this center everything else revolves. This is in large part the meaning of the emphasis put in this type of Christianity on justification by faith. It is its conviction that there is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only “when we believe.” It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place, or that can take a place along with Him. We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace. Though blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, we are still in ourselves just “miserable sinners”: “miserable sinners” saved by grace to be sure, but “miserable sinners” still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath. That is the attitude which the Reformers took, and that is the attitude which the Protestant world has learned from the Reformers to take, toward the relation of believers to Christ.
(HT: Reformation 21 Blog)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Waking Up

Why is waking up so hard to do,
When the day is work and not play,
And the bed is warm and
The room is cold?
Why is the alarm hard to hear
And the sleep so deep?
But on Saturday, O for shame!
My eyes open and thoughts begin
It’s too early, why can’t I sleep in?


Friday, March 09, 2012

Harry Potter and Magic—The Best I Have Read on This

By Alan Jacobs, of course, from the January, 2000, First Things. His last two paragraphs follow, but you really ought to read the whole thing.
In this sense the strong tendency of magic to become a dream of power—on the importance of this point Lynn Thorndike, Keith Thomas, and C. S. Lewis all agree—makes it a wonderful means by which to focus the theme of Bildung, of the choices that gradually but inexorably shape us into certain distinct kinds of persons. Christians are perhaps right to be wary of an overly positive portrayal of magic, but the Harry Potter books don’t do that: in them magic is often fun, often surprising and exciting, but also always potentially dangerous.
And so, it should be said, is the technology that has resulted from the victory of experimental science. Perhaps the most important question I could ask my Christian friends who mistrust the Harry Potter books is this: is your concern about the portrayal of this imaginary magical technology matched by a concern for the effects of the technology that in our world displaced magic? The technocrats of this world hold in their hands powers almost infinitely greater than those of Albus Dumbledore and Voldemort: how worried are we about them, and their influence over our children? Not worried enough, I would say. As Ellul suggests, the task for us is “the measuring of technique by other criteria than those of technique itself,” which measuring he also calls “the search for justice before God.” Joanne Rowling’s books are more helpful than most in prompting such measurement. They are also—and let’s not forget the importance of this point—a great deal of fun.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Trying to decide if I should read Cormac McCarthy

Two completely unrelated quotes:

“This gives his novels a relentlessness, barreling the reader through his gloomy worlds. If one theme is consistent to McCarthy’s work, it’s depravity and darkness. His stories usually follow characters who venture into desolate places, where humanity is descending into something devious and dark: the brothels of Cities of the Plain, the roving murderers of Blood Meridian, the cannibals who haunt the margins of The Road. Through this frightful landscape, McCarthy’s lead characters do their moral wrestling, wondering if anything good remains in the darkness. His books all answer that question differently, though (I would argue) rarely without some measure of hope.


John Piper once said on Twitter ‘Cormac McCarthy is to the American literary canon what Judges is to the the biblical canon.’ I couldn’t agree more.”

 — Mike Cosper, The Gospel CoalitionCormac McCarthy: Judges in the American Canon

“If what’s always distinguished bad writing— flat characters, a narrative world that’s clich├ęd and not recognizably human, etc.— is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then [Bret Easton] Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.”

 — David Foster Wallace, posted by Alan Jacobs, via kadrey

The first paragraph is written by a Christian for a Christian institution about an author who writes dark and violent novels that John Piper says are comparable to the biblical book of Judges. The second paragraph is written by an author and has nothing to do with Cormac McCarthy. But it does give a sort of argument for writing about light shining through darkness.

I have not read any Cormac McCarthy, who many of my friends say is great. Clearly his work is dark. Most of the literary society thinks his work could not be characterized as bad writing. The questions I have are whether 1) he finds a way “both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibiliites for being alive and human in it”? and whether 2) it is sufficiently good writing for me to read it?

A Kernel of Truth at the Heart of a Story

“My job as a writer is to whittle my story down to the bare truth at its heart and then build around it the best illusions I can muster, illusions that support and even illuminate without distracting. The failure to understand this is precisely why so many films fall flat—the storyteller is enraptured by his own illusion and forgets to paint the truth. If there’s not a kernel of truth at the heart of the story, then all the action sequences, precise prose, and emotionally manipulative music on earth can’t save it.”

—Pete Peterson, The Rabbit RoomTruth in the Guise of Illusion