- Hebrews 3:3
Carl Trueman writes, "If Augustine freed the church from the back-breaking self-martyring piety of Pelagius, Luther freed her from centuries of obfuscating complication. . . Luther saw clearly that the Christian life is actually distinguished not by elaborate complexity but by its beautiful, simple, accessible Christ."
"Librarians have been suggesting books to patrons for literally forever, mostly during actual face-to-face conversations," Jessica Leber states. Can math model do it better, and more importantly, do we want it to?
Brooklyn's public library set up a title recommendation service in which their librarians would read your submission and respond with appropriate books. It took a while at first.
"Wait time aside," Leber says, "when I received my own response two weeks later, I had in hand not five, but six well thought out suggestions of literary science fiction novels I might enjoy (as per my request), all from authors I’d never read before. I felt really good about the list--not because I’ve actually read the six books yet, but by simply knowing there was a human being involved in creating it. The titles genuinely all seemed like books I might read, and Emily Heath, the librarian who fulfilled my request, had even placed a card catalogue-linked list in my online library account so I could more easily find and borrow them."
The human element is part of what David Swartz misses in bookless libraries. When everything is digital and can only be found through search requests, you may be able to find what you're looking for but not be able to stumble across the extra information you need. (via Prufrock)
The wonderfully Reformed Ligonier Ministries issued a survey through LifeWay Research to identify what points of doctrine Americans believe. As you would imagine, Americans are all over the theological map, but what statements do they believe reflect reality? Will there be people in heaven who have never heard of Jesus Christ? Forty-one percent believe so. Is even the smallest sin worthy of damnation? Only fifty-one percent of self-professed evangelical protestants believe that's true and only ten percent of all respondents agree strongly. Is God unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions? Twenty percent say he is unconcerned. And pertinent to the central question of the Reformation, must someone contribute his own effort to his personal salvation? Seventy-one percent of surveyed Americans agree, fifty-four percent being evangelical protestants.
Dr. R. C. Sproul believes our country is sliding into a new dark ages of spiritual life, and this survey doesn't change his mind. Get all the details on their website, including a great infographic.
Notice the section on worshipping alone. That's one of those points of application that reveal our theological assumptions. Do we need worship the Lord together? Is our salvation essentially individualistic? Does a local church have any spiritual authority over us? Americans appear to have lost an understanding of the purpose of a local church.
I'm familiar with three of the people you see in this trailer, and I'm confident in the quality of their work. On that basis I'm sure this is worthy watching with a small group. It asks what our salvation is for and offers compelling answers.
Joshua Rogers, writing for Focus on the Family, says, "I suppose the most remarkable thing was how the series helped me fall in love with the Gospel in a way that I hadn't since that awesome spaceship-themed Vacation Bible School at Calvary Baptist Church when I was in fifth grade." He means that in the best way possible and gets the director to answer some questions on his objectives.
Andy Crouch says, "It is designed to help the church reclaim our true calling: to live out our salvation, in the words its title borrows from the Orthodox writer Alexander Schmemann, “for the life of the world.” ...Schmemann’s breathtaking sacramental view of ordinary life is here, as are Kuyper’s distinctive spheres" (subscription required).
Learn more about For the Life of the World here.
C. S. Lewis wrote, "When grave persons express their fear that England is relapsing into Paganism, I am tempted to reply, `Would that she were.’" Because pagans have been shown to be convertible to Christianity, but post-Christians have shown more resistance. Pagans appeal to gods who cannot hear them and suffer for it. Post-Christians still benefit from the God they rejected and believe they have earned all they receive. Lewis wished we could find our spiritual poverty again so that we would see the riches to be found in Christ Jesus.
Today Englishman Bob Davey has taken up saving an abandoned church in Norfolk from local pagans. After cleaning up the church, he worked over the graveyard. "But even after he had driven the Devil from the door, still his acolytes returned. On every Witches’ Sabbath – special dates in the Pagan calendar – Mr Davey spent the night camped out in the church, on guard duty." It can get ugly.
Meanwhile, "The Church of England is trying to recruit pagans and spiritual believers as part of a drive to retain congregation numbers."
This just in. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has begun to build a center to house it's a extensive collection of documents from the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon and offer space for lectures and study. They're calling it the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching.
Everyone has a novel in them, they say. And those works of art or escapism should be published for everyone to read. Apparently, millions and millions of books are being published in the US every year. A small percentage of those books are novels (or fiction novels, as some call them). A very small percentage of the novels published over the last three or four years have depicted the world in chaos as Harry Potter and his friends discover they have been left behind in a uniquely British rapture.
A little under 200,000 people profess to be writers in the US. The rest are too ashamed to admit it. The latter are mostly the ones who participate in library-sponsored parties for NaNoWriMo writers, where anyone can gather with other strangers for a few hours to scribble or type at the first of at least 50,000 words. They will be hear great advice, like this from Chris Baty:
- Jot down the names of your characters to stop a Mike becoming Matt or Mick as you write.
- Eat peppermints: a Nasa-funded study showed the peppermint plant increased alertness by 30 per cent.
- Go outdoors with a newspaper, a pen and a notebook. Close your eyes. When you open them spot ‘Your Person’ and write down everything about them. Close your eyes. Open your paper on a random page and let your finger choose a spot. Open your eyes. The thing you’re pointing to has a link to the person you just collected. Work it into your next chapter.
Many will say, "Just get it written." They may insist, "The story must get out of you." But let these stats depress you. And while you're thinking over your plans for next month's exercise, ask yourself whether your story is worth pursuing.
"Nine times out of ten, your idea is really quite mediocre and has been done before, actually a number of times and in a number of different ways," Laurie Scheer states, but you haven't read those stories. You're just invested in your own. What still lies before you is the biggest challenge for all writers today: whether you want to write or to have written.
Go ahead and write 50,000 words next month, and if you love it enough to keep at it, then keep writing. Words are awesome. If you don't love it, maybe you can organize that library party into a community lacrosse team.
Mike Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, has a new book on the stories we tell and our longing for truth. Here are some quotes of his ideas carried in Christianity Today.
"When people, against their better judgment, find themselves hooked on a show, we can trace the line back to find the hook in their imagination."
"Our most perfect creations—our efforts at playing God— always stumble into the inherent problem of human weakness, creation’s unpredictability, and the impending threat of evil."
"If we believe the Bible to be true, we must admit that there is more to this world than we perceive. Powers and persons that we can’t see or comprehend are at work, but somehow we intuit them. That intuition works itself out in our imaginations, and we tell stories that try to explain what we feel and comfort us from fear of the shadows."
One of his chapters is entitled "Honey Boo Boo and the Weight of Glory." That's probably worth the price of the book alone.
Aaron Belz offers this snapshot of Marilynne Robinson's America, that land where the least of us can become great by the Lord's grace:
As unpopular as it is, the Calvinist/Puritan doctrine of total depravity shares ground with the philosophes’ and founding fathers’ view of humans. Read Candide, a violent satire full of rape, bestiality, and murder designed to supplant European aristocratic classism with individualism and equality. Though Voltaire loathed organized religion and outright rejected Calvinism, he depicted the human race in a Pauline way, each misguided soul awaiting a humble revelation of its own worth. And remember that it was Thomas Hobbes, also a philosophe, who famously described human life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."(via Prufrock)
Patrick Kurp says he couldn't have read Max Beerbohm at a young age, because he requires a personal depth or history to draw upon while reading. He notes, "In another small masterpiece from And Even Now, 'The Golden Drugget,' Beerbohm describes a rather drab, undistinguished inn near his home in Rapallo, overlooking the Gulf of Genoa, in Italy:
“By moonlight, too, it is negligible. Stars are rather unbecoming to it. But on a thoroughly dark night, when it is manifest as nothing but a strip of yellow light cast across the road from an ever-open door, great always is its magic for me. Is? I mean was. But then, I mean also will be. And so I cleave to the present tense--the nostalgic present, as grammarians might call it.”
Does Lovecraft still matter? A new annotated volume argues in favor of this old horror writer. Lovecraft, who died five months before his 47th birthday, also “shrewdly created an American pantheon of horror,” Klinger said of the hardcore New Englander. “He was the first writer of supernatural literature to understand the psychological consequences of the generations of Puritanism and the warping of the human psyche that resulted.”
I always get a chuckle out of accusations that Puritans twisted our civilization. Where would America or the world be without the Puritans of England and its New World colonies? Nowhere. They would be unrecognizable to us, if we could see such an alternate history.
Speaking of Alt-history, Lars' Death's Doors is tons of fun. You should read it. For real. (via Prufrock)
A judge for the Noble Prize for Literature said professional writers suck and are dragging everyone down with them. Judge Horace Engdahl remarked, “Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard - but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.”
They soaked in Parisian culture too, which I assume is important to the world of letters. Honestly I can't tell if Engdahl is making a great point or a silly one. On the surface of it, he seems to be the voice of the establishment complaining that the establishment is cannibalizing itself.
Observer critic Robert McCrum said: “Engdahl’s bracing remarks reflect quite a lot of informal comment within some senior parts of the literary community, especially those grey cadres that are anti-American. At face value, these comments are an odd mixture of grumpy old man and Nordic romantic. I’m not sure that the author’s garret is the guarantor of excellence.”
This has made my day. In one of the books I edited this summer, the author attributed this quote to Coach John Wooden, "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." I searched for verification that Coach Wooden said it or came up with it himself, but could only find it widely attributed to him without citation. I found it attributed to Art Linkletter too, also without citation.
If I said known Wooden (1910-2010) was as old as Linkletter (1912-2010), I might have let it go, but I thought Linkletter was much older and consequently in a better position to have said something like this before the coach. So I kept looking, and finding nothing, asked The Quote Investigator to help. With his workload, I didn't expect an answer right away, but in today's email, I received word that he had posted his report:
(Great thanks to TygerBurning and Phil Wade whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Wade pointed to the 1979 citation and noted that Linkletter credited Wooden.)When I wrote to QI, I told him I had found the quote attributed to Wooden without citation in Yes, You Can by Linkletter, so that ruled out one name, but that's as much as I could discover. Seeing the final QI report, I don't believe I could have found the answer.
Your desire to explore the genuine provenance of quotations is admirable. I appreciate your visiting and asking about an interesting saying.
In May 1965 an instance of this aphorism using the word “folks” was published in a newspaper column in Ada, Oklahoma together with miscellaneous sayings. No attribution was provided:So chalk this one up to folk wisdom, friends.
Things turn out best for folks who make the best of the way things turn out.
... In the following years, close variants of the adage were published in numerous newspapers. No individual was credited with the remark, and QI believes the statement should be labeled anonymous.
Adam Roberts notes about The Lord of the Rings, "The repeated theme is the danger of words; their slipperiness but also the ease with which they can move us directly into the malign world of the text. One ring to bind us all. Books are bound, too."
Robert George believes we are at a tipping point with many opinion-makers. “Christians, and those rejecting the me-generation liberal dogma of ‘if it feels good do it,’ are no longer tolerable by the intellectual and cultural elite,” he says. The individualism of modern liberalism has become like a national religion for these elite, so our views on personhood, community, God, and everything else are heretical at best. They are in a position to punish us for holding these views, as George explains in two videos.
Micah Mattix says D.G. Myers was one of our best critics. Last Friday, Myers died of the cancer he endured for the past few years. Patrick Kurp is organizing a Festschrift for him to be hosted by Gregory Wolfe. Terry Teachout described him in an essay only a few days ago.
Kurp has written a few posts on Myers. Here he remembers a story of a dying man by Henry James. Here he passes on information from the family.
In a talk Myers' gave at Congregation Torat Emet on July 17. 2014, he said:
Several years ago terminal cancer called to me and I answered Hineni, “Here I am.” The religious language may seem blasphemous, as if I were claiming to be a prophet, but that’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is Hashem places you in your circumstances, and even the most ordinary of persons can discover his unique role in life, his calling—he can help to complete creation—if he recognizes and accepts where he has been placed.
Alan Noble says that Springs Charter School story may be an overreaction. In fact, the school says, "We can and do provide educational books with religious perspectives, including Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place."
The school statement continues: "However, like every other public school in the State of California, we cannot legally maintain religious textbooks on our warehouse shelves for distribution to our families. Donated items are made available to our families at no cost. Any and all donated items are not incorporated onto the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse. The only materials we maintain on the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse are items we have purchased ourselves in accordance with the laws of our State."
Noble asks, "Did the Superintendent make this clear in the letter she sent to PJI? That much is not clear, since PJI didn’t actually post her letter online." But the Super does appear to be a practicing catholic, not a opponent of faith.
If the government-sponsored drought doesn't drive people out of California, the education system should. One California English professor (that's a professor of California English, not just one who lives in the state) argues in his book that students should be exposed to liberalism in college. Johnathan Marks reviews Donald Lazere's Why Higher Education Should Have a Leftist Bias.
Here's the idea: "Neither mainstream liberals nor mainstream conservatives question the 'unmarked norm' of capitalism, and consequently students don’t question it either. 'Isn’t there something to be said,' then, 'for … preserving in the human imagination … socialist ideals,' and 'mightn’t college liberal arts teachers … be indulged in this role, like the monks who preserved the manuscripts of classical humanists?'"
Marks goes on to destroy Lazere's arguments with facts, which I won't repeat here. "Lazere’s great narrowing of the aim of higher education encompasses more than his wish that it occupy itself with preserving the thought of the left. Because Lazere thinks that not only 'unmarked norms' but also the deliberate efforts of a 'conservative attack machine' have prejudiced students against the left, exposing that machine becomes an important aim of 'general education.'" (via Prufrock)
Joel Miller explains "What banning this book says about the future of our society," talking about the Springs Charter Schools removing Christian books from their circulation. That book is Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place.
Rod Dreher describes a bit of how it changed him. "Reading The Hiding Place as a kid dramatically affected me. The moral heroism of the ten Booms sensitized me to the effects of anti-Semitism, and taught me what Christians must do if ever we are in a situation where persecuted people rely on us for protection."
Miller writes, "Given this Christian impulse to identify with the oppressed and save those in danger, to remove The Hiding Place from library shelves betrays a sort of societal self-defeat, and similar examples multiply as our culture fumbles toward a more rigorously enforced secularity. We’re like the cannibal committing suicide one nibble at a time." (via Prufrock)
"In the wonderful world of Walker Percy, old fashioned Southern gentility saunters in seersucker into sub human behavior and sips bourbon while planning a congenial genocide.
Their shabby chic sophistication makes the nefarious activities of the characters in The Thanatos Syndrome even more chilling."
Truth triumphs over sentimentality in this story. Dwight Longenecker explores it for us.
Now this is a vocabulary test.
An independent American-Brazilian research project is "measuring vocabulary sizes according to age and education, and particularly to compare native learning rates with foreign language classroom learning rates." They ask you to check all the words you can define, not just ones you think you've seen before. I got a respectable score, but yours will probably be better. Feel free to let us know. If you know what vibrissae and uxoricide are without me telling you, you'll do great on this test.
River Springs Charter Schools in California is reportedly removing all Christian books from its library shelves.
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a legal defense organization, has been circulating the accusation that this network of California charter schools is culling its stock of Christian material, notably The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.
The school says it receives state funds and so cannot allow "sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves." On their Facebook page, the school states, "No, we are not banning Christian novels at all. We are not allowed to provide sectarian textbooks however, so this is where the confusion comes in. So it's yes to novels, no to textbooks as a public school."
But attorneys with PJI say the Supreme Court has a "long-established precedent that strongly disapproves of school libraries removing books based on opposition to their content or message."
Now I fully understand that "sectarian" could be defined in wild and nonsensical ways. I mean, this is California. But I have a hard time understanding how a library is supposed to operate if it can't remove books over content issues. How did the books get in the library to begin with? If they had a volume of a decade of Playboy issues, would librarians be able to remove it based on the content?
I'm told Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico is in play here. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Gregory Wolfe observes, "If the Bible is a closed feedback loop – read me but read nothing else – then sign me up for another religion. I think it’s saying the opposite: read me faithfully and you will be equipped to read everything. If scripture doesn’t send you out into the world with curiosity and compassion, then it’s not from God."
He answers three quick questions here as a preface to speaking at the Word and Words Conference at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
It's Banned Books Week again, friends, that wonderful time of year when parents and teachers pull out their cardigans and gather to discuss serious complaints and differences of opinion over mugs of hot apple cider. When we drink cider in America, we think of censorship. Isn't that right?
This year we have a delightful book about the Islamic Revolution in Iran called Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. It's an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, based on her experience growing up in Iran. Oregon's Department of Education recommends this book for high school students. It's a disarming little tale of horrific events as seen through a child's eyes. You can see a couple pages through the link.
Parents in Murphy, Oregon, have objected to the language and violent content in the book at their Three Rivers School Board meeting. When one parent was allowed to read from Persepolis, a board member stopped him because he didn't think the language was appropriate for the meeting, which helped make the parent's point.
Curiously enough, Chicago public schools pulled the book last year, which provoked parents and teachers to react in support of it. Copies of the book were reportedly taken from schools, and even Chicago's mayor said he would investigate the reason. They have since rescinded its complete removal. The school CEO asks that it not be taught to seventh graders.
None of this is censorship, friends. I don't know why Chicago wanted to yank this book, and I'm willing to believe the worst about their intentions, but that doesn't mean the parents in Murphy don't have good ones. Both of these things are beside the point. Objecting to a book's placement on a reading list is not calling for it to be banned. Asking for more parental consent when assigning difficult or morally objectionable material is not a book burning party. It's democracy and many other things as well.
“If it comes to a swinging, swing all, say I.”
Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and my little family plans to catch a dozen free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. If you talk like Long John Silver, they'll give you a doughnut. If you dress like Blackbeard, you'll get a dozen. That's our mark, matey. Other establishments may have deals in your are, but Talk Like a Pirate Day is really about the office watercooler.
“Dead men don't bite," you might say to your shipmate who won't throw you overboard. "Heaven, you fool? Did you ever year of any pirates going thither? Give me hell, it's a merrier place: I'll give Roberts a salute of 13 guns at entrance." This is an especially good line for those who have a Roberts on board.
If you're looking for inspiration like some of what I've quoted here, search for quotes from Treasure Island and records of historic quotations.
"In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto." Thus spake Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts, according to the scribe, and who can argue with him?
What's more? Here be a boon of quotes for ye, nancy-pants!
Update: In the spirit of authenticity, here's a page with history of some piratey words.
The Herald of Scotland is culling a list of the 100 best Scottish novels from their readers. They have 30 so far, including The Death of Men by Allan Massie, The House with the Green Shutters by George Douglas Brown, and The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott.
Readers might take this recent list of crime fiction into consideration. They say Scotland can have an sobering, perhaps despairing, effect on people. Writer Helen Fitzgerald appears to disagree.
“My mum said 20 years living in the grey, murder capital of Western Europe, has made me write about darkness, despair, and deviance. She suggested I come home to Australia to write something with hope and joy in it. Taking her advice, I headed downunder in December, sat at an outside table in a cheerful, sunny beach-side cafe, and started writing. The story I started writing is about a dysfunctional Australian couple who accidentally overdose, kill and bury their baby whilst a raging bushfire burns folk to a crisp in the distance. Sorry Mum, it’s not Glasgow. It’s me.”
People have begun to publically worry that the world is forgetting what happened in Ferguson, Missouri over a month ago. I haven’t forgotten. I was praying for the families there this morning.
I could say many things about the Michael Brown shooting, how the police have handled it, how the community has handled it, the demonstrations, and the militarization of civil police forces. My perspective on these things has been stretched, and I don’t want ignore it. So let’s talk about “white privilege.”
You can see it in videos like this, showing a social experiment. A white guy tries to break into a car for thirty minutes, alarm blaring, without being questioned or stopped. A black guy does the same for less than five minutes before police show up. You have to assume witnesses believed the white guy had lost his keys (or something legit), but the black guy was obviously committing a crime. (Here’s a man’s reaction to the video, blaming blacks for legitimizing the stereotype they dislike.) I’m told the same kind of experiment has been tried with two men and a woman, each pushing a car up a street. Witnesses ignore the white man, question (or call police on) the black man, and offer to help the white woman.
In these cases, white privilege—no matter what the term may imply when pundits and professors use it—means being able to get on with your life without harassment, even when your car has broken down. Dr. Jarvis Williams describes other ways the term applies: getting a job or promotion, hailing a cab, or walking around a department store on your own merits, not being judged by the color of your skin. As a white man, I have never thought I could look suspicious while browsing a store, but that has been the experience of many respectable people who are judged regularly by their skin color. The absence of that public suspicion is what “white privilege” means.
Read the rest of this entry . . .
A Facebook community of authors are donating September's royalties to Iraqi Christians through Voice of the Martyrs. They call themselves Authors in Solidarity. We've reviewed a few of books featured in this community. Lars is donating his royalties from Hailstone Mountain (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga Book 4). There's New Found Dream: Book Two of "A Healer's Tale", The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, Bid the Gods Arise (The Wells of the Worlds) (Volume 1), and many more. Let us know if you join this effort to help Christians in Iraq.
Megan McArdle, a columnist at Bloomberg View, attempts to explain why writers are great procrastinators. She suggests many, perhaps most, writers haven't failed enough. They have rested on their natural talent for too long and believe that the talent is all they have to offer. They don't see their talent as a muscle that will grow with exercise; rather they see it as a solid that can be tested for purity. If the world discovers they aren't as good as they sometimes appear to be, they will be certifiably, undeniably doomed.
"This fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you 'really' are," McArdle writes, "is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome. A shocking number of successful people (particularly women), believe that they haven’t really earned their spots, and are at risk of being unmasked as frauds at any moment. Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable."
When faced with this fear, people may choose to hamper their own performance. She quotes Alain de Botton, saying, “Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.” "For people with an extremely fixed mind-set," she continues, "that tipping point quite often never happens. They fear nothing so much as finding out that they never had what it takes." (via Lore Ferguson)