- Henry Van Til
Photo credit: Russavia, 2008.
It’s part of my necessary duties as a novelist, one who specializes in a country where he does not live and has only visited a few times, to do my best to read travelers’ reports, especially old ones from before the days of the automobile and the high speed ferry. When I found Through Norway With a Knapsack, by W. Mattieu Williams, first published in 1853, and slightly expanded and updated in 1876, I jumped at it, especially since the Kindle version came cheap. And I’m glad I did. Not only does it largely cover parts of the country I’m less familiar with, but the author – though not free of the congenital arrogance of the 19th Century Englishman, turns out to be pretty congenial. He knows how to laugh at himself, and is flexible in the face of unfamiliar conditions. He likes to travel light, like an early Rick Steves, which was not common for men of his background and class.
Instead of analyzing the whole thing, I just share a portion I particularly enjoyed:
After a few hours’ sleep, and a repetition of the meal just described, I started at two in the afternoon and walked on by a good road to Nordgård. On the way I was hailed by a man on the other side of a hedge, to know if I had seen two horses on the mountain. On finding me to be an Englishman he spoke to me in good English, and told me that long ago he emigrated to America and lived there for sixteen years; but the desire to see his ‘Gamle Norge’ again had brought him back, and finding his daughter married, with a farm and family about her, he was persuaded to remain and end his days there. I asked him which he liked best, America or Norway? He preferred America. Why then did he not return? He tried to explain; and, after some help in wording and shaping the expression, told me that he liked America, but did not love it; and that he loved Norway, but did not like it; and as loving was stronger than liking, he resolved to die at home.
Perhaps not recommended for any reader whose ancestors came from Telemark, unless you like hearing about how your people were the filthiest in Norway at the time. Otherwise, pretty good.
In warning his readers against divisions, Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel to those of us who are being saved is the power of God. That describes the beauty of a book like Jared Wilson’s Gospel Deeps. It’s an extended meditation on this glorious word of the cross.
“Does love demand freedom?” he asks in chapter one. That’s the idea we get from many stories and some ministers. “What we are asked to believe is that God doing whatever he wants with whomever he wants is a simplistic, fatalistic view of love, and that God letting us do whatever we want is a more compelling vision of his love.” But God, who is the author and giver of life itself, whose character defines love, peace, joy and other virtues, could not be more loving than he is. God is love, though love is not God, as some would have it. “Maybe the reality is a love more multifaceted than we can understand with finite, fallen minds… that the God of the Bible is as transcendent as he is imminent, that his ways are inscrutable, that his love is glorious and astonishing precisely because it is too wonderful for us” (pp. 27-28).
Jared isn’t a mystic on a frozen Vermont hillside. Read the rest of this entry . . .
“I’ve always thought that beautiful art was a great apologetic resource,” Myers says. Beauty is the chief attribute of God, said Jonathan (not Bob) Edwards. “Beauty points to a Creator.” Yet the church, Myers says, “capitulates more and more to the culture of entertainment.”This recalls the MHA Journal (#114) interview with Gerald McDermott who said Jonathan Edwards has been marginalized by Modernists (if I remember correctly) who successfully made the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" Edwards' signature work. By doing so, they hid their students from the beauty and glory of God which Edwards often discussed.
“It’s a way of keeping market share. But they’re digging their own grave. There’s a short-term benefit, but in the long term the kinds of cultural resources they need to be faithful to the Gospel won’t be there.”
Josh Otte offers "20 exulting quotes from Jared Wilson’s latest book, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus. I just couldn’t fit them all into my review, but I also couldn’t resist sharing them with you. Read and worship, friends!" For example:
“My driving conviction in this book is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is big. Like really big. Ginormous, if you will. And deep. Deep and rich. And beautiful. Mulitfaceted. Expansive. Powerful. Overwhelming. Mysterious. But vivid, too, and clear. Illuminating. Transforming. And did I mention big?”
I've been reading this book too. It's wonderful. Don't wait for my review to get it yourself or for someone on your Christmas list.
What would our founding fathers think of today, Election Day 2012? Author Ron Chernow talks about it:
Washington did take public opinion into account. In fact, during his first term as president he made a tour of the Northern states and a tour of the Southern states because he wanted to hear what people had to say about the Constitution and the new government. So, he wasn’t oblivious to public opinion, but it wasn’t a situation where you had poll numbers on an almost hourly basis that you’re consulting.
People might disagree with him, and they certainly did, but they never felt that they would be betrayed by him. There was an extraordinary sense with all of the early presidents of authenticity, that is, what you saw was what you got. These were not people capable of that kind of guile. That mystic bond I don’t sense with either Obama or Romney.
Author Jon Meacham also answered the question what Jefferson would think about modern elections: "Let’s stipulate that this is an unknowable question. That said, Jefferson loved big political fights, and while he often said he disliked controversy, in many ways political strife was the air he breathed. So he’d enjoy this dash to the finish."
Kathy Keller, wife of New York pastor and author Tim Keller, reviews Rachel Held Evans' new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master", asking some hard questions about the book's intent. Keller writes, "Evans wants to show that everyone who tries to follow biblical norms does so selectively—'cherry picking' some parts and passing over others. She also says she wants to open a fresh, honest dialogue about biblical interpretation, that is, how to do it rightly and well." But Evans apparently cherry-picks on her own, some of it for humor's sake, some of it seriously.
See many positive reviews on Amazon.
"There are so many Lincoln geeks that buy everything new that comes out," Cathy Langer, the lead book buyer at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, tells Stephanie Cohen of the Wall Street Journal. Cohen goes on to report Langer's claim "that in her years as a buyer, she has rarely turned down a title about the 16th president." One such book is Killing Lincoln, which has sold over two million since its release a year ago September. Cohen states some 16,000 books have been written about President Abraham Lincoln, and there's more to come.
To illustrate the volume of existing Lincoln works, the Ford's Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington created a three-story, 34-foot tower sculpture out of Lincoln titles, meant to "symbolize that the last word about this great man will never be written," according to the center.Perhaps I should start writing a series of short volumes on the ignored presidents, like Polk, Hayes, Tyler, and Garfield. I could call them Thrilling Histories, e.g. The Thrilling History of James K. Polk. Or maybe they should be called the Presidential Insider's Guides. Or maybe the What You Didn't Learn series. (via Frank Wilson)
Oh bother. That network that shows re-runs of Burn Notice has moved NUMB3RS into that Wednesday night slot. So I'm supposed to watch Judd Hirsch instead of Gabrielle Anwar? I don't think so. Sure, I've seen every episode three or four times, but frankly I prefer that NUMB3R.
From Fox News, we get word that an English dialect has died.
In a remote fishing town on the tip of Scotland's Black Isle, the last native speaker of the Cromarty dialect has died, taking with him another little piece of the English linguistic mosaic.
Scottish academics said Wednesday that Bobby Hogg, who passed away last week at age 92, was the last person fluent in the dialect once common in the seaside town of Cromarty, about 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Scottish capital Edinburgh.
And finally, Andrew Klavan posts a clever trailer for a book for women, on how to understand men.
Come to think of it, why is this a problem? Isn't the complex supposed to comprehend the simple?
Here's a strong interview with Professor Hunter Baker of Union University on the topics of his book, The End of Secularism.
Ian Morgan Cron grew up with a deep, unsatisfied hunger for the love of his father. He tells the story of his struggle to understand and forgive in the memoir, Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, A Memoir… Of Sorts. His father was, when Ian was young, an executive with a motion picture company. The family lived in Europe and hobnobbed with movie stars and political figures.
Then his father’s career crashed on the rock of his alcoholism. The family moved home to Greenwich, Connecticut, to a life of marginal poverty (sure, it wasn’t Harlem, but the contrast of their own lives with those of their wealthy neighbors just made it harder for the kids). His mother made a new career in time that gave them some financial stability, but his father’s continuing blackouts and rages left wounds Ian couldn’t deal with.
In his religious life, Ian went from an innocent, youthful love of Jesus to bitterness and atheism, when Jesus failed to give him the one thing he asked for—a sober father. He experimented with drinking, was scared by his own reaction, and settled into drugs for a while before taking up drinking again.
It was only after many years that Ian learned his father’s great secret—he’d been a CIA agent. Many spies are alcoholics and narcissists, he learned. They’re suited to the life.
Only the realization that he was himself turning into his father drove Ian to seek counseling, and finally to reconcile with God.
Ian Cron writes with a light touch and the kind of mordant humor you’re familiar with if you’ve read authors who suffered child abuse (and believe me, you have). His account of his journey back to faith is in many places touching and moving. The personal revelation that reconciles him to Christ at one point is one that some Christians may have trouble with. I’m not sure about it myself, but I generally try not to judge another Christian’s deepest confidence.
Hints in the course of the story suggest to me that Cron’s final faith road brings him closer to Tony Campolo than to James Dobson, but those hints are lightly touched on and need not spoil the story for those of us who trust the Bible more than our hearts.
Recommended, especially for Christians who come from dysfunctional homes. Or those who want to understand them better.
Hunter Baker talks about the ideas in his latest book, Political Thought: A Student's Guide (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition), with Brad Jackson and Allysen Efferson of Coffee and Markets. Dr. Baker explains the publisher's intent of the series and that wanted to write a political book anyone could read.
If Lewis's epistemology has a center, it is in fact, not truth, because truth is always about reality—one step removed from the thing itself.
Winged Lion Press is a small publisher concentrating on C. S. Lewis- and mythopoeic-related material. I received a free copy of Light: C. S. Lewis's First and Final Short Story from publisher Robert Trexler.
Many, if not most, C. S. Lewis fans are familiar with a story called “The Man Born Blind,” published posthumously in 1977 by Lewis's literary executor, Walter Hooper, in the book The Dark Tower and Other Stories.
A few years ago, a different version (and a later one, in the opinion of Charlie W. Star, author of Light) was acquired by a collector of Lewisiana. The manuscript's provenance is cloudy, but handwriting and ink strongly indicate that it's genuine. This story carries Lewis's own title, “Light” (the title in Hooper's volume was his own invention, as the version he had had none).
Of all Lewis's writings, “Light” is probably the most enigmatic. It springs from his most profound thinking on meaning and reality, and these are deep waters indeed.
I should caution you that unless you're a hard-core Lewis fan, you may find this book kind of hard going. The grass here is tall indeed. I couldn't help thinking of A Canticle for Liebowitz, as Charlie Starr manages to find material for an entire (and not short) book in a four page story. But for the Inklings enthusiast, there's much of interest here.
The story is examined from several directions, but perhaps the most fascinating are those of dating and meaning. The two are closely related, as Lewis' friend Owen Barfield clearly remembered seeing a version of the story in the late 1920s, some time before Lewis's conversion. But Starr argues (pretty convincingly) that this version was written around 1944. His argument is that Lewis must have nursed this story, re-writing it from time to time, over the course of his lifetime, so that it meant rather different things at the end than it did at the beginning.
Light is not for the casual reader, but I recommend it for the hard-core Lewis fan.
Now, it would hardly be true to say that Percy's been forgotten—two major biographies of him have been published and his books continue to sell well. But we are convinced he should be even more widely read. . . . The experts consulted are extremely well chosen, and include the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and psychiatrist Robert Coles, novelist Richard Ford (who has long cited Percy's Moviegoer as his inspiration for becoming a writer), the late historian and novelist Shelby Foote, Paul Elie (author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own), and biographer Walter Isaacson (whose most recent book was about Steve Jobs).
Nutrition news is ripe for overstatement. You might say there are fruit flies of hyperbole swarming many popular reports on select health benefits. Take this example from a site I won’t name (not naming my source would be in keeping with many health reports): “In parts of China where people eat a lot of vegetables such as garlic and onions, villagers have one-quarter as many cases of cancer as people in the rest of the country.” Perhaps that’s true, but it doesn’t mean that the health claim the writer makes in using this example is true or as strong as he says it is. There are likely many combined reasons that guard these Chinese from cancer.
In popular news, nutrition reports can be maddening. Often, the news will simplify a report too far, like saying coffee is linked to hallucinations when the report is actually inconclusive. Or a report may be accurate and the study reported on simplistic. So when I began reading Ty Bollinger’s book, Cancer: Step Outside the Box, I hoped for sound-mind descriptions of alternative cancer treatments and the health benefits of various food products. I fear, however, it has too many fruit flies.
The first thing Bollinger wants us to believe is that pharmaceutical companies and certain medical groups do not want us to heal from cancer or find its cure. They want to make money off of our disease, so they have stifled real cures like apricot seeds in favor of their money-making treatments: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. He argues that the FDA and other agencies are pressured by lobbyists to ban nutrition and promote manufactured drugs. Some leaders are pressed to promote something regardless of clinical evidence and others are steeped in a groupthink that prevents them from questioning the promotion. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Mark Twain. Photo: Library of Congress
For example, he [William Godwin] was opposed to marriage. He was not aware that his preachings from this text were but theory and wind; he supposed he was in earnest in imploring people to live together without marrying, until Shelley furnished him a working model of his scheme and a practical example to analyze, but applying the principle in his own family; the matter took a different and surprising aspect then.
A few days back I posted a link to an article on the shameful domestic behavior of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. One of our commenters, “Habakkuk 21,” pointed me to Mark Twain's essay, In Defence of Harriet Shelley. I downloaded it for my Kindle, and it made interesting reading.
As I've said before, I have ambivalent feelings about Mark Twain. I yield to no one in my admiration for his gifts as a novelist and humorist. He was one of the greats, and he's given me plenty of good laughs. I like him less as a man, and when he gets on his Skeptical hobbyhorse he irritates me. On top of that, many of my generation saw Hal Holbrook (at least on TV) doing his Mark Twain show, in which he cherrypicked Twain's writings to give the impression that he was essentially a man of the '70s—the 1970s—born before his time.
But in In Defence of Harriet Shelley we see another Mark Twain—the Victorian middle class gentleman, the devoted husband and father, for whom nothing could be more vile than a man who abandoned his family. I expected a little more wit in this essay than is actually to be found here. The primary tone is withering scorn. It appears that Twain had little intention of entertaining the reader in this piece. He was morally outraged, and it's the outrage that comes through.
I like Mark Twain a little better as a man, after reading A Defence of Harriet Shelley. It's hardly a classic of Twain's work, but it's kind of nice having him as an ally for a change.
“This then is the speculative political history of the Viking Highlands,” says author Kelday in his Introduction.
The story of the Vikings in Scotland—and in the Celtic areas of Britain and Ireland in general—has intrigued me for a long time. If D. Rognvald Kelday’s formidable book The Viking Highlands - The Norse Age in the Highlands raises awareness of that story, it will have done us a service, in spite of some flaws.
It’s true enough, as most of us know, that the Norse dispossessed many native people, robbed churches and strongholds, and took many slaves. But it’s also true (as Kelday stresses) that the places where Celtic culture and traditions survived, after the Celtic kingdom of Alba was transformed into the Anglicized kingdom of Scotland, were those parts that remained longest under Norse rule. The clans Gunn (Gunnar), McAuliffe (Olaf), McManus (Magnus), McLeod (Ljot) and McDonald (descended from Somerled, a Celto-Norse lord with a Viking name, Somerlidi) all look back to the days of the Norse jarls who ruled under something like the Scandinavian republican system.
But it’s not only Scots who’ll find material of interest here.Read the rest of this entry . . .
We founded our country on liberty within the confines of law, a theme that would likely challenge many grade-school students today. It’s on full display in the second episode of Courage, New Hampshire. The show starts with a hanging. A preacher declares to the audience, “The wages is death,” and so the counterfeiter must die. For unexplained reasons, a burglar is spared a hanging and instead branded with a “B” on his forehead.
Silas Rhodes is the justice of the peace in Courage, and he’s worried that he should have brought in a preacher years ago. He lists the various crimes and vices committed over the past few years and blames himself for spending more time on building the economy than nurturing community faith. So he hires a recent graduate of Harvard, to preach for eight sermons, saying if the township doesn’t like him, they can look for a preacher themselves. No doubt they will be looking for a new preacher soon, since this one proves himself a louse as soon as we meet him.
The burglar may be the most fascinating character in this story. He confesses to having a vision while on the hanging block, seeing the devil lusting for him and Christ Jesus standing between them. Later on, he appears to be chaffing under the preacher’s Scripture-less sermon. I look forward to seeing him become a courageous patriot.
This episode smolders in tension a while and blazes up at the end. It reveals an induction ceremony for The Sons of Liberty, a secret band of patriots which I believe was launched in response to the Stamp Act in 1765. Each colony had their own society of patriots, and after the Stamp Act was repealed and the larger organization dispersed, John Adams notes, “Many Sons of Liberty groups, however, continue to remain active in local community affairs.” It will be fascinating to see how these men take up a higher law to fight against a heavy-handed British government in future episodes. The third show releases next week, May 6.
Find Courage on Facebook. Watch the shows, buy the DVDs, or contribute to the production on their website.
Bookseller and poet Jen Campbell has made a name for herself by quoting odd and often hilarious things people say in bookshops. For example: "What books could I buy to make guests look at my bookshelf and think: ’Wow, that guy’s intelligent’?"
Now, that question makes complete sense to me. I remember a speaker, perhaps Ravi Zacharias, saying he overheard someone ask for so many feet of books. It didn't matter what types of books really, just important looking ones to fill up a shelf behind a union leader's desk to make him look educated when he spoke to business owners.
Colony Bay Productions, an independent acting group, is taking up the story of early America with a passion some well-known commentators might think no longer exists. Lead by James Riley, a reenactor of Patrick Henry and owner of Riley’s Farm, this group is producing an ambitious DVD series called Courage, New Hampshire. It’s goal is to tell the story leading up to our independence, season by season for the remainder of the decade. They started in the winter of 1770 with the story Sarah Pine, an unmarried, young woman who gave birth to a child she claims to be by a British soldier named Bob Wheedle. The story primarily introduces the characters and the small town of Courage. No appearances from Ben Franklin or Paul Revere. The Boston Massacre occurs during the time of this story (March 5, 1770) and is the only reference given to the history of the world beyond their border.
There are two episodes available today; the third is coming in several weeks. My wife and I watched the first one, “The Travail of Sarah Pine,” and loved it. The music by Rotem Moav is perfect. I love the authentic sound of the many references to the Bible in the dialogue. Costuming and setting all look beautiful and genuine, though at one point I thought they should have aged a man’s clothing to take the straight from the catalog look away.
There is a community theater aspect to Courage. Some of the acting isn’t as polished as I’d like, because in the end, viewers want to enjoy the story and not think about the last few lines sounding off a bit. Some of the actors are fairly new or untrained in their art, but many of the cast have experience with Shakespearean plays, movies and TV, and some famous people play a part here and there, like Andrew Breitbart in episode two.
I can't discern a political agenda in this story, unless stories about colonial America without touching on select hot spots makes a story politically incorrect. I look forward to seeing the big historical names, if they ever get out to Courage or if the story ever goes to Boston. I see that episode three has a much lesser-known figure, a black soldier named Caesar, who fought in the continental army.
You can buy a DVD or steam the episodes through their site. If you like period drama, this is worth your time. I'll let you know what I think of other episodes when I see them. (Thank you, Ori Pomerantz, for promoting this series to me and sending me this DVD.)
Jared Wilson's Seven Daily Sins: How the Gospel Redeems Our Deepest Desires
Dave Lull directed me to this web page, advertising "the first ever cookbook based on archaeological finds." If you want to eat like a cave man, or a Viking, this would appear to be the book for you.
Will I be purchasing a copy? I don't think so. It would require me to actually, you know, cook stuff. Not that I can't cook when I'm cornered, but one of the consolations of bachelorhood is that nobody really expects you to cook in a serious fashion.
The picture of a Viking house in the article is pretty good, but the floor puzzles me. It looks flat and clean. To the best of my knowledge, Vikings pretty much always had dirt floors, usually covered over with rushes, which would be taken out and replaced periodically.
I downloaded this book because a) it promised to be useful in my ongoing research on northern Europe in the 11th Century, for my Erling books, and b) it was cheap for my Kindle. In general I'm pleased with my purchase. It proved even more helpful than I expected, though I have one complaint.
Canute the Great and the Rise of Danish Imperialism During the Viking Age, by Laurence Marcellus Larson, was first published 100 years ago, but it remains a readable, useful, and occasionally dramatic historical account. This was a great relief to me, since I'd read a more recent biography, Cnut: England's Viking King by Lawson, and it had been a bow-ring read. I marveled at the time, considering that here we have the saga of a real man who lived a Conan the Barbarian life, rising from exiled prince and pirate to emperor (effectively) of England and much of Scandinavia. But Lawson's book was a dry recitation of textual citations, concentrating on tallies of Danish and English names in old charters, in order to guess how far Canute (or Cnut) favored his fellow Danes in the English government. As I recall (it's been a while) he barely touched on Canute's adventures outside England, while Larson revels in the saga accounts of (Saint) Olaf Haraldsson's establishment of an independent Norwegian kingdom, in the teeth of Canute's power.
And this raises my main complaint about the book. Lawson is completely on Olaf's side. For men like Erling Skjalgsson, who opposed Olaf's high-handed policies, he has only scorn. They are traitors, bought with English silver, and their cause is essentially heathenry.
If you've read my books, or followed what I say about Erling in this blog, you'll know that I dissent strongly from that opinion. Erling and his allies were defending republican government. Heathenry had almost nothing to do with it. If they took silver from Canute, well, that's what carls did in those days. Olaf gave rich gifts to his men too.
But other than that, it's a pretty good book, and even exhibits an enlightened (especially considering the date of publication) view of Viking culture. Recommended. (As is the case with so many e-books, there are some problems with typos due to OCR errors.)
Our friend Dr. Gene Edward Veith has a new book out, Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.
I probably won't be reviewing it myself, this subject being outside my sphere of expertise, but if you're a normal person, you're likely to find the book useful. Dr. Veith is a wise and godly man.
The remarkable growth on Christianity in Africa "has been tainted by an American-style prosperity emphasis that focuses on health and wealth at the expense of sin, redemption, and repentance." Nigerian Femi Adeleye is fighting back in his book, Preachers of a Different Gospel: A Pilgrim’s Reflections on Contemporary Trends in Christianity, drawing clear distinctions between biblical gospel with the message of self-satisfaction.
I respect Dr. Edward Welch from some of his earlier works (a good example, Running Scared: Fear, Worry & the God of Rest). Now, he has a book for teenagers and young adults in which he answers a few fundamental questions. What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life leads a reader into the reasons he may pander to his crowd by asking:
- Who is God?
- Who am I?
- Who are these other people?
Welch offers a gentle path to freedom to anyone wise enough to walk with him. He describes true and false worship as being those things that are worthy of our love and those that aren’t. “Love the approval, acceptance, or love of other people; they will be like a god to you and control your life,” he writes. “It is a basic principle: the more you are controlled by God, the less you are controlled by other people. The more you love God, the less you will love the acceptance or recognition of others. So grit your teeth and get to work! Just kidding.”
I look forward to giving my daughters this book to help guard them against the fear of men, which I still find threatening. It’s probably the main reason I don’t feel as if I’ve fully grown up yet.
NPR has a good report on Susan Cain's new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, noting that modern workplaces are often designed for extroverts. My office is a comfortable place for introverts, but I feel the pressure of the extroverts in the desire to collaborate on work that doesn't seem very collaborative to me. I appreciate what she says about leadership training, even though I'm not a leader and don't know what it will take to become one. Perhaps the problem is my definition of leadership.
Get Cain's book here: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Jared’s latest book on the joys found in the gospel of Christ is a rich, beautiful addition to a long list of puritan literature. Gospel Wakefulness describes our Lord’s multifaceted gospel, revealing its shimmering light against many dark colors of brokenness and sin.
In short, we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. As Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” When Christ said on the cross, “It is finished,” he truly conquered death and overcame sin for all who believe. His resurrection from the grave proves it. Many Christians do not struggle with this concept as a doorway into heaven and the church, but we frequently misunderstand that this is the path to holiness as well as salvation. We believe that Jesus is Lord for the purpose of saving us from damning sin, but not for the purpose of making us righteous today. For righteousness, we believe we must “work out our salvation” on our own (Philippians 2:12). “The spiritual reality is that it is God who is in us doing the work,” Jared explains. “The gospel is not just power for regeneration; it is power for sanctification and for glorification [as if these ideas can be separated-pw]. It is eternal power; it is power enough for life that is eternal.” Read the rest of this entry . . .
"What’s the thing that’s supposed to captivate Christians, above all else?" Aaron Armstrong asks at the start of his review of Jared Wilson's new book, Gospel Wakefulness. The answer, of course, is the gospel. Gospel wakefulness means “treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly.” Aaron praises the book highly (I anticipate doing the same), but he takes issue with one point, giving Jared the opportunity to respond.
The conviction prevails, in privileged circles that, if we study history without reshaping it to our contemporary prejudices, history will corrupt us. May I suggest that the opposite is true?
...Those who deny history die of myth.
In that quotation from his Introduction, Ralph Peters sums up much of the lessons he propounds in his 2010 collection of essays and columns, Endless War. The first section of the book consists of a series of essays on early Islamic victories in the historic struggle with the West, followed by a series of Western (dare I say Christian?) victories as Muslim civilization went into decline. Then he draws conclusions, and proceeds to analyze various aspects of our contemporary “War On Terror” (a designation he loathes).
Our great mistake, as I read him, is our insistence on “understanding” our opponents. That's not a bad thing in itself, but the way our academics and academically-trained soldiers do it is so informed by postmodern secularism that they end up violating both fact and logic. Better than academic anthropology and political theory, these people should read original historical and religious texts, and myth. Our enemies are fighting for a dream, not an ideology.
Peters (who is also the author, under the name Owen Parry, of the Abel Jones novels which I've often praised in this space) expresses some iconoclastic opinions on our current struggle. Contrary to what you've read, he says, Iraq was the “good war,” and Afghanistan (following the original incursion, which should have been more massive) is a waste of time. Afghanistan, he says, has no strategic importance, is impossible to govern, and was only the base for the 9/11 terrorists because they'd been kicked out of every other safe haven. In Iraq, he maintains, the terrorists chose to make their real stand, and Saddam Hussein was genuine military threat. Control of Iraq also gives us considerable strategic advantages.
Having read Endless War, I feel a little better informed than I was, though the whole question remains Endlessly Complex.
The only major problem I had with the book was one essay (can't find it now) in which he said he was as afraid of Christian fundamentalists as of Muslim fundamentalists. That's a remarkably “conventional wisdom” kind of observation for a thinker of Peters' originality. He doesn't repeat it, so perhaps he thought better of it later.
Full disclosure: I got this book free for my Kindle through a special offer.
Endless War is an extremely readable, highly original, and penetrating analysis of the struggle between East and West. Recommended.