Lewis on Politics and Natural Law

C. S. Lewis on Natural Law

Today at Power Line blog, Steven Hayward writes about C.S. Lewis and a new book on Lewis and politics. He mentions having wondered in the past whether Lewis and Leo Strauss, whose thought he considers highly compatible, were aware of each other. Although he still doesn’t know that Lewis had ever heard of Strauss, he now has evidence that Strauss knew (and admired) Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.

He plugs a new book, C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law, by Justin Buckley Dyer and Micah J. Watson. No reason why we shouldn’t get in on that business too.

The Girl with the Bestselling Novel

Why do so many bestselling novels have “girl” in their title? Maybe it was inspired by Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and such. But author Emily St. John Mandel says the trend in titles started before Larsson’s books were released. Perhaps it’s a natural phenomenon. Mandel notes this interesting data point:

The “girl” in the title is much more likely to be a woman than an actual girl, and the author of the book is more likely to be a woman. But if a book with “girl” in the title was written by a man, the girl is significantly more likely to end up dead.

We Can Burn Books, So Why Not Teachers?


“We train as researchers but spend our days managing the emotions of late adolescents, haggling over budgets, and figuring out how to use Moodle’s gradebook,” writes Jonathan Malesic, who used to teach at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, before he burned out.

“Eventually, I came to dread every class meeting.”

He describes his experience and some lessons learned.

Chronic dislocation produces the three main components of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of professional ineffectiveness. Burned-out professors, then, are people who cannot muster the strength to do the intellectual labor of their job, who see students as problems, and who feel their work has no positive effect.

Introverted teachers and students appear to be at greater risk for burnout in increasingly social learning environments. English teacher Michael Godsey tells this story:

After 11 years of teaching English at a public high school, Ken Lovgren left the profession, mostly because he was drained by the insistent emphasis on collaboration and group work. Engaging in a classroom that was “so demanding in terms of social interaction” made it difficult for him to find quiet space to decompress and reflect. “The endless barrage of ‘professional learning community’ meetings left me little energy for meaningful interaction with my kids,” he told me.

‘Ten Guilty Men,’ by Daniel Campbell and Sean Campbell

Ten Guilty Men

I’m not sure what to say about this well-written English police procedural. Ten Guilty Men by Daniel and Sean Campbell rates pretty high (I think) on the realism scale, but left me with the sense I always got from 19th Century realistic novels: What was the purpose of this journey?

Detective Chief Inspector Morton, the main character, is a London police detective, heading a small (understaffed) team of investigators. He’s called out to a posh home filled with trash, where Ellis DeLange, a famous photographer, has been found dead, floating in her swimming pool. Cause of death is not drowning, because she has a head injury that couldn’t have been accidental. Suspicion focuses on the party attendees – Ellis’ boyfriend (a sports broadcaster), her sister, her best friend, a drug dealer, and a few others. The systematic investigation gradually reduces the suspects to two, and then passes on to an account of the murder trial, somewhat like an episode of the TV series, Law & Order.

Inspector Morton is a pretty good character. He’s generally a good boss, though he likes to pull rank, often in a joking way. Of particular interest is his relationship with a subordinate who has suffered a stroke and has trouble communicating. At first Morton treats him like a defective, but he gradually learns that the young man has good skills and instincts, and so learns to make use of his strengths.

My main problem with the book is the ending, which is unsatisfying in the extreme. This is not the kind of book where everything gets tied up neatly with a ribbon on the last pages. Of course this approach is true to the real world, but it leaves me with little incentive to continue reading the series.

Moderately recommended. I don’t recall much extremely objectionable content.

One final question remains: What’s the cover about? It has nothing to do with any part of the story.

Now 75: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary this year. Bill Morris offers his thoughts on the magazine and an exhibition of it in the Butler Library at Columbia University.

In a land where most magazines have the lifespan of a fruit fly, how is it possible for one magazine to survive — and thrive — for 75 years? Janet Hutchings has a theory: “The great power that Frederic Dannay gave this magazine was its variety and its reach.”

For the first time in American publishing, the magazine published any good mystery it could: “hard-boiled stories, classic English mysteries, noirs, suspense, cozy mysteries, the work of literary writers.” It broke down barriers to what was acceptable to publish. “Now, writers of every stripe gleefully plunder one or more genres, stitching together scraps or horror, pulp, crime, fantasy, ghost stories, mysteries, westerns.”

‘And Then She Was Gone,’ by Christopher Greyson

And Then She Was Gone

I’ve been enjoying Christopher Greyson’s Jack Stratton series of mystery/thrillers. And Then She Was Gone is another Jack Stratton book, but unlike the others it doesn’t include the word “Jack” in the title. That seems to be a purposeful change, because unlike the other books, this one is really a young adult novel. It jumps back in time to the period between Jack’s high school graduation and his induction into the Army.

A young wife, joyful at the news that she will be a mother, is murdered in a park after dark. Evidence points to a young black man, a neighbor of Jack’s old foster family, from the time before his adoption. Jack doesn’t even like the guy. But his Aunt Haddie, his foster mother, whom he loves, insists that he try to find evidence to clear the young man – because he plans to be a policeman after his Army hitch. He reluctantly makes the attempt, but soon finds himself in trouble with the police, who do not like his interference. But Aunt Haddie’s faith keeps him trying, even after he screws up. Someone gave up on Jack once, long ago, and he just doesn’t have it in him to “throw anybody away.”

I’ll have to admit I liked this book less than the others in the series, but I blame that on my personal issues. It’s a story about a young man defying authority, and that simply makes me uncomfortable. Author Greyson has actually done a remarkable thing here – writing a “young rebel” story that in fact upholds traditional values. These stories are Christian novels in the better sense – the Christianity is folded in naturally, and there’s no preaching. Several of the characters here will be dead in the following books, so a certain poignancy is built in too.

I recommend And Then She Was Gone, especially for young adult readers. I will continue to follow the Jack Stratton series with pleasure.

Spurgeon on the Force of Faith

Faith is a root from which may grow all that can adorn the human character. So far from being opposed to good works, it is the ever-flowing fountain from where they proceed. Take faith away from the professed Christian and you have cut the sinew of his strength. Like Samson, you have shorn him of his locks and left him with no power either to defend himself or to conquer his foes. “The just shall live by faith”—FAITH is essential to the vitality of Christianity and anything which weakens that faith weakens the very mainspring of spiritual power!

Image from page 73 of "Farm implements, and the principles of their construction and use" (1854)

Brothers and Sisters, not only does our own experience teach us this, and the Word of God declare it, but the whole of human history goes to show the same Truth of God. Faith is force! Why, even when men have been mistaken, if they have believed the mistake, they have displayed more power than men who have known the truth, but have not heartily believed it. The force that a man has in dealing with his fellow men lies very much in the force of conviction which his beliefs have over his own soul. Teach a man the Truth of God so that his whole heart believes in it and you have given him both the fulcrum and the lever with which he may move the world.

To this very moment the whole earth is tremulous like a mass of jelly beneath the tread of Luther, and why? Because he was strong in faith! Luther was a believer in the Word of God and the schoolmen with whom he had to contend were mere disputers. The priests, cardinals and popes with whom Luther came into contact were mere traders in dead traditions! Therefore he smote them hip and thigh, with great slaughter. His whole manhood believed in what he had learned of God—and as an iron rod among potters’ vessels, so was he among the pretenders of his age! What has been true in history all along is most certainly true now. It is by believing that we become strong—that is clear enough.

Whatever supposed excellencies there may be in the much vaunted receptive condition of the mind, the equilibrium of a cultured intellect and the unsettled judgment of “honest” disbelief, I am unable to discern them. And I see no reference to them in Scripture. Holy Writ neither offers commendations of unbelief, nor presents motives nor reasons for its cultivation. Experience does not prove it to be strength in life’s battle, or wisdom for life’s labyrinth. It is near akin to credulity and, unlike true faith, it is prone to be led by the nose by any falsehood.

From this sermon on Hebrews 6:17-20, delivered May 21, 1876.

The Anchor as a Christian Symbol

Anchored“In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.”

What is the origin of the anchor as a Christian symbol, and why do we no longer use it? Apparently, it relied on a play on Greek words, so as Greek lost its hold as a language among Christians, so did the symbol.

Also,  a few questions answered by Jonathan Edwards’s A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, a highly recommended book.

More on D. Keith Mano

The death of D. Keith Mano continues to sadden me. I think it’s because he was a Christian author (of a sort) who produced truly excellent literature; stuff that ought to be remembered. But I’m not sure it will. To some extent that is his own fault; he was very much the product of a weird time in American history. He may be rediscovered by future generations, or he may be lost track of entirely.

Richard Brookhiser remembers him in National Review:

He had a set of rules for writing, which he never fully explained to me; the point was to avoid similar constructions in adjacent sentences. He did explain his rules for reading: He pulled books blindly from a bag. One source for the bag was the Strand, the great used-book store below Union Square. Keith would visit it with a pair of dice; the first throw picked the aisle, the second the shelf, the third the order in from the end of the book he would buy. You must have got some odd ones, I said. An Indian fiveyear plan from 1959, he answered. You read the whole thing? I asked. There were lots of charts, he said.

Our friend Dave Lull sent me this link to the .pdf of the whole issue. The Brookhiser eulogy is on page 24. I hope this is legal.

The ‘Intellectual Hermit’ Behind The Babylon Bee

World Magazine has a feature story on Adam Ford, creator and general editor of The Babylon Bee as well as the man behind Adam4d.com web comics. He’s a naturally funny guy, but his humor is rooted in serious reflection on biblical faith and their application to contemporary issues. His wife calls him “an intellectual hermit who likes to laugh.”

How else could he run with lines like these:

  • Bored With Porn, Man Turns To ‘Game Of Thrones’
  • Hip Pastor: “I’m the SPARK—Senior Pathfinder of Artistry, Reverie, and Kingdom-extension—of this worship spot. And when you come to this spot—it’s not a “church,” by the way—you will never catch me preaching to you.”
  • The Texas Department of State Health Services has issued an order to Joel Osteen . . . to acquire a butcher’s license in order to continue handling Scripture.

Ford got into making satire sites in part out of his own needs. From World:

Ford says a lot of Christians who suffer from mental health issues are afraid to talk about them. “I didn’t grow up in the church, so I don’t have some of that baggage, and I think one reason God has given me these problems is so I can help comfort other Christians who struggle like I do.”

Speech Is a Uniquely Human Quality

Max Muller, a pioneering 19th-century linguist at Oxford, read Darwin’s work and declared that the use of language was the gift that definitively separated human beings from the animal kingdom. It was, Muller said, “our Rubicon, and no brute will dare to cross it.” Nowadays, neo-Darwinians would dismiss mulish Muller as a “speciesist.”

Andrew Ferguson summarizes and reviews Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech for sympathetic readers. He condemns scientists who argue against non-scientists asking awkward questions they’d rather ignore and claim to deserve a respect they have yet to earn.  “Evolutionary theory is no closer than it was in Darwin’s day to explaining in materialist terms how traits like self-consciousness and language came to be.” (via Prufrock News)

Friday Fight: Battle Axe

They no longer teach axe skills in high school, but thankfully the Internet has it covered. This is a longer video than we normally post for the Friday Fight, but it will give you an idea of how demonstrators need to practice in order to fight each other safely.

Compare this to the fighting we see in these videos:

‘Vikings’ unearthed

I think I’ve written about the old TV show, Tales of the Vikings, here before. It formed the spark that first roused my interest in the Vikings. Judging by the clip below, which recently appeared on YouTube, it was about as cheesy as I figured.

According to the link, there are six extant episodes available on CD now from this site. I had been given to understand that all episodes had been lost forever. So this is good news. Except that I’m reluctant to order from an unknown site.

I probably will, though.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture