Wednesday, December 31

Humility and Delight

"Authority exercised with humility, and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live." --C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, December 30

Right to Life Rally

On January 25, George Grant will be the plenary speaker for the annual Tennessee Right to Life rally in downtown Nashville marking the 36th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. The event, held adjacent to Capitol Hill at the Bicentennial Mall from 2-3:30 PM, will also feature Dr. Richard Land and Bishop David Choby. Given the historic challenges to the sanctity of life posed by our new administration in Washington, this could very well be a pivotal moment for the pro-life movement and for our nation. Be sure to mark your calendars and plan to attend this peaceful, prayerful event.

Sunday, December 28

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Often called Childermas, this day on the Christian calendar has traditionally been celebrated as the Feast of the Innocents. It is the day that solemnizes the slaughter of the children of Judea by Herod the Great following the birth of Christ.

It has always been the focus of the Christian’s commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of human life—thus serving as a prophetic warning against the practitioners of abandonment and infanticide in the age of antiquity, oblacy and pessiary in the medieval epoch, and abortion and euthanasia in these modern times. Generally set aside as a day of prayer, it culminates with a declaration of the covenant community’s unflinching commitment to the innocents who are unable to protect themselves.

Virtually every culture in antiquity was stained with the blood of innocent children. Unwanted infants in ancient Rome were abandoned outside the city walls to die from exposure to the elements or from the attacks of wild foraging beasts. Greeks often gave their pregnant women harsh doses of herbal or medicinal abortifacients. Persians developed highly sophisticated surgical curette procedures. Chinese women tied heavy ropes around their waists so excruciatingly tight that they either aborted or passed into unconsciousness. Ancient Hindus and Arabs concocted chemical pessaries--abortifacients that were pushed or pumped directly into the womb through the birth canal. Primitive Canaanites threw their children onto great flaming pyres as a sacrifice to their god Molech. Polynesians subjected their pregnant women to onerous tortures--their abdomens beaten with large stones or hot coals heaped upon their bodies. Egyptians disposed of their unwanted children by disemboweling and dismembering them shortly after birth--their collagen was then harvested for the manufacture of cosmetic creams.

Abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment were so much a part of human societies that they provided the primary literary liet motif in popular traditions, stories, myths, fables, and legends. The founding of Rome was, for instance, presumed to be the happy result of the abandonment of children. According to the story, a vestal virgin who had been raped bore twin sons, Romulus and Remus. The harsh Etruscan Amulius ordered them exposed on the Tiber River. Left in a basket which floated ashore, they were found by a she wolf and suckled by her. Romulus and Remus would later establish the city of Rome on the seven hills near the place of their rescue. Likewise, the stories of Oedipus, Jupiter, Poseidon, and Hephaistos, were are victims of failed infanticides.

Because they had been mired by the minions of sin and death, it was as instinctive as the autumn harvest for them to summarily sabotage their own heritage. They saw nothing particularly cruel about despoiling the fruit of their wombs. It was woven into the very fabric of their culture. They believed that it was completely justifiable. They believed that it was just and good and right.

The Gospel therefore came into the world as a stern rebuke. God, who is the giver of life (Acts 17:25), the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9), and the defender of life (Psalm 27:1), not only sent us the message of life (Acts 5:20) and the words of life (John 6:68), He sent us the light of life as well (John 8:12). He sent us His only begotten Son—the life of the world (John 6:51)--to break the bonds of sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-56). For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Saturday, December 27

Strong, Old Things

"Weak things must boast of being new, like so many new German philosophies. But strong things can boast of being old. Strong things can boast of being moribund." --G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, December 25

The Paradox of the Incarnation

“Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. In the Father He remains, from His mother He goes forth. Creator of heaven and earth, He was born on earth under heaven. Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless. Filling the world, He lies in a manger. Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom. He is both great in the nature of God, and small in the form of a servant.” --Augustine (354-430)

On the Nightstand





Wednesday, December 24

The Continual Passion of Christ

"The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha even in Bethlehem; for, to his tenderness then, the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after; and the manger as uneasy at first, as his cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of one and the same day." --John Donne, A Sermon Preached at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on Christmas Day, 1626.

A Christmas Prayer For America

Monday, December 22

Neglecting Fads

“You can find all the new ideas in the old books; only there you will find them balanced, kept in their place, and sometimes contradicted and overcome by other and better ideas. The great writers did not neglect a fad because they had not thought of it, but because they had thought of it and of all the answers to it as well.” --G.K. Chesterton

Friday, December 19

Paul Weyrich: 1942-2008

"The last forty years of Washington politics is, in a sense, a series of footnotes to Paul Weyrich." --George F. Will

"Paul Weyrich is the man a generation of Washington conservatives wanted to be when they grew up." --Tom DeLay

"No single person--other than Ronald Reagan-- has done more to create the modern conservative movement than Paul Weyrich. I'm not sure there could have been a 'Contract with America' without Paul Weyrich's leadership."
--Newt Gingrich

"If there were a Mount Rushmore for conservative leaders, Paul's face would have to be on it." --Morton Blackwell

"In the beginning there was Paul Weyrich. Forty-two years in Washington, leading the conservative movement. Not just talking, leading." --Rush Limbaugh

Wednesday, December 17

Why Blog?

According to John Piper, ministry leaders should use new technologies like blogs--in order "to write, to teach, to recommend, to interact, to develop an eye for what is meaningful, and to be known."

This post on the Desiring God site is just one example of why I believe Piper's ministry is so fruitful and effective for the Kingdom.

Tuesday, December 16

For Gourmets and Gourmands

Though the shopping days are quickly slipping past us now, it is still not too late to order Saints Bearing Casseroles for Christmas. Contact Joanna at the Parish Presbyterian church office. With 225 pages and more than 300 recipes, this new cookbook, hot off the press, is the perfect gift for all the gourmets and gourmands on your list.

A New Hardback Edition of "Patriot" for 2009

Winter Wonderland




Saturday, December 13

Santa Lucia’s Day

A beautiful and wealthy Sicilian who was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian, Lucia of Syracuse (c. 304) was known as the patron of light. For her, Advent was always a celebration of the approach of Light and Life. Interestingly, her feast day, held on December 13, is one of the shortest and darkest days of the year. Thus, a great festival of lights is traditionally held in her memory--particularly in Scandinavian cultures. Candles are set into evergreens. Garlands are spread, full of twinkling lights. Torchlight parades are held. And fireworks brighten the evening sky. The celebration remains an important holiday in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Norway, Finland, Malta, Italy, Bosnia, Iceland, and Croatia.

St. Columba

Nearly two centuries after Patrick had carried the gospel of Christ to Ireland, Columba was born in the Irish town of Donegal on this day in 521. He was a member of the royal family--though his parents were devout Christians, and as a boy Columba attended the first church established by Patrick.

Columba was ordained and established several churches and monasteries in Ireland, but in 563 he left his native land and went on pilgrimage for Christ. With twelve companions he sailed to Iona, a rugged island just off the west coast of Scotland. There he established a monastery which would serve as a base of evangelism among the barbarian Scots and the Picts.

He and his pioneer evangelists courageously preached to these fierce people who were still under the strong influence of the Druid religion. Brude, king of the Picts, was converted under Columba's influence, and Christianity began to spread quickly and have a strong influence on the region.

The monastery Columba founded at Iona became a center of learning and piety. In a day when the Roman church was becoming more ceremonial and priestly, the school at Iona emphasized the Bible as the sole rule of faith. For these Celtic Christians, Christ alone was head of the Church--they did not follow the hierarchical authority or the liturgical ceremonies of the Roman church.

From Iona, a vast number of missionaries went out to the lands of Holland, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. As a result, the island became a favorite burying place for kings-more than seventy Irish, Scots, Norse, and Fleming kings sought to be interred within its holy confines.

By the end of the sixth century, the Pope began to try to bring the movement Columba under the authority of the Roman Church. He sent the missionary Augustine to Britain in 592 and established him as bishop at Canterbury. For a century there was a struggle between the British church and the Roman church for authority in the region. At last though, in the seventh century, at the synod of Whitby in 664, the authority of the Roman church was affirmed and accepted by all but a few of the churches. Even those few recalcitrant parishes in the Highlands of Scotland eventually acceded to Rome’s control by the end of the eighth century and Columba’s vision was all but lost--until its revival under John Knox and George Buchanan during the Scottish Reformation during the sixteenth century.

Monday, December 8

Saints Bearing Casseroles

I love food. I love everything about food. I love eating it, of course. But, I also love talking about it, thinking about it, and reminiscing about it. I love the social traditions that surround good meals. I love the kind of fellowship that can only be shared around a dinner table or across a picnic table or beside the kitchen counter or over the stove.

When I plan a family trip, I always factor in where we’ll stop for our meals--and our snacks between meals. If I’m away for a speaking engagement, I always do a little research to discover what must-experience local cuisines I can fit into the weekend. I even have my favorite spots to grab a quick bite in airports all over the world. A few years ago when I wrote a novel, I turned it into a kind of food-travelogue. Once, I even found a way to fit my love for barbecue into a book about theology. I love food.

That's why I am about to shamelessly hawk the new cookbook published by all the great cooks in my congregation, Parish Presbyterian. No, really. Hot off the press with 225 pages and 300 recipes,Saints Bearing Casseroles is perfect for Christmas gift-giving.

Not only that, but it is a gift with real theological import. Seriously.

You see, not only do I love food, but I actually think God loves food too. Consider the fact that we can hardly read a single page of Scripture without running into a discussion of bread and wine, milk and honey, leeks and onions, glistening oil and plump figs, sweet grapes and delectable pomegranates, roast lamb and savory stew. Everywhere we look, there are feasts and celebrations, fatted calves and pungent herbs, loaves and fishes.

Think about how many ways the Lord uses food to preach the Gospel to our hearts and lives. Faith is defined by hungering and thirsting. Covenant is defined by hospitality and community. The pinnacle of worship is the gathering of God’s people around His table. The culmination of the history of redemption is a wedding supper.

And have you ever noticed that nearly all of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances occurred at meals? Remember, Jesus did not say, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will enter in and discuss theology with him.” Oh no! Instead, Jesus said, “I will come in and sup with him.” What a difference!

It is always delightful for me to consider the fact that one of the surest indications of healthy covenant love in a church is the appearance of “saints bearing casseroles.”

This Christmas, give the cooks you love this wonderful collection of wit and wisdom, recipes and meal plans, insight and whimsy. Get your copy (or copies) of Saints Bearing Casseroles from Joanna at the Parish Presbyterian office--they're just $20 apiece and all proceeds benefit the Parish Pres Building Fund (OK, OK, I already admitted that this was all rather shameless). Merry Christmas--and be sure to check out the Texas guacamole!

Newsweek's Absurdity

The current Newsweek magazine cover story on same-sex marriage is embarrassing. As Mollie Hemmingway point out in her spot-on analysis at the Get Religion Blog, the article is a complete “train wreck of a hit piece” from its “junior high-worthy snarkiness” right through to its “unbelievable ignorance” and “offensive hackery.”

How could the senior editor of this major media outlet--who, by the way, oversees all of the magazine’s religion coverage--have completely ignored the Bible while making an argument purportedly based on the teaching of the Bible? How could she actually maintain that, "while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman"?

Umm, ever see this one?

“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6.

Absolutely amazing! Newsweek should probably lay off the theologizing--at least until someone on staff actually knows a bit of theology.

On the Nightstand



Book Sale

This Saturday at Parish Pres, several students of Franklin Classical School and New College Franklin will be holding a book sale to raise funds for missions (for the Classical School of the Medes in Iraq and for New College Franklin). The books have all been culled from my personal library. My goal has been to pull about 2,000 volumes or so--some are duplicates, some are already read and don't need to remain archived, and some are publisher review copies. There will also be copies of the new Parish Pres cookbook, Saints Bearing Casseroles. In addition, a few other folks have donated books of various kinds and there will be fresh baked goodies, coffee, cider, and other refreshments available for sale. So, come early, stay late, and snag some Christmas presents for all those hard-to-buy-for folks on your list. Doors open at 8:30 AM and won't close until 3:00 PM.

Wednesday, December 3

Cantankerous Cant

“Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world, there is no cant to me more hateful than the cant of an ostentatious and affected liberality.” --Thomas Chalmers

Tuesday, December 2

Measure of a Man

"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." --Samuel Johnson

Monday, December 1

Before Narnia

Yuletide

The holiday season--what we generically just call Christmastime--is actually a long sequence of revered traditions, holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from the end of November through the beginning of January that are collectively known as Yuletide.

Beginning with Advent, a time of preparation and repentance, proceeding to Christmas, a time of celebration and generosity, and concluding with Epiphany, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving, Yuletide traditions enable us to see out the old year with faith and love while ushering in the new year with hope and joy.

It is a season fraught with meaning and significance. Unfortunately, it is also such a busy season that its meaning and significance can all too easily be obscured either by well-intended materialistic pursuits--frenzied shopping trips to the mall to find just the right Christmas gift--or by the less benign demands, desires, wants, and needs which are little more than grist for human greed. The traditions of Yuletide were intended to guard us against such things--and thus, are actually more relevant today than ever before.

Saturday, November 29

Advent

"How proper it is that Christmas should follow Advent. For him who looks toward the future, the manger is situated on Golgotha, and the cross has already been raised in Bethlehem." --Dag Hammarskjold

Advent is a season of preparation. For centuries Christians have used the month prior to the celebration of Christ’s incarnation to ready their hearts and their homes for the great festival.

While we moderns tend to do a good bit of bustling about in the crowded hours between Thanksgiving and Christmas—shopping for presents, compiling guest lists, mailing holiday greeting cards, perusing catalogs, decorating hearth and home, baking favorite confections, and getting ready for one party after another--that hardly constitutes the kind of preparation Advent calls for. Indeed, traditionally Advent has been a time of quiet introspection, personal examination, and repentance. It is a time to slow down, to take stock of the things that matter the most, and to do a thorough inner housecleaning.

Advent is, as the ancient dogma of the Church asserts, a Little Pascha--a time of fasting, prayer, confession, and reconciliation. All the great Advent stories, hymns, customs, and rituals--from the medieval liturgical antiphons and Scrooge’s Christmas Carol to the lighting of Advent candles and the eating of Martinmas beef are attuned to this notion: that the best way to prepare for the coming of the Lord is to make straight His pathway in our hearts.

The Whip of Advent

The pitch of the stall was glorious
Though the straw was dusty and old
The wind sang with orchestral beauty
Though it blew bitter and cold

The night was mysteriously gleaming
Though the earth was fallen, forlorn
For under the eaves of splendor
A child-The Child-was born

Oxen Sheep and doves
Crowded round Nativity's scene
Though the world still failed to grasp
T’was here that peace had been

Cast out into a cave
When no room was found for Him
His coming was a scourge
That cleansed a robber's den

While the Temple's become a cattle stall
Where beasts and such are sold
The Child's turned Manger into Temple
And changed the base to gold

Tis the paradox of the ages:
Worldly wisdom will ne're relent
To notice signs of visitation
Nor the cords of the whip of Advent

--Tristan Gylberd

Failure: The Backdoor to Success

Theodore Roosevelt was never afraid to fail. In fact, he often wore his failures as badges of honor. To him, the attempt, the effort, and the sheer pluck of involvement was what really mattered in the end, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Though he enjoyed many successes throughout his career, he had his share of failures. He never allowed them to stymie his sense of responsibility and calling. He was often knocked down, but never out.

In addition, he was eager to learn from his mistakes. On this day in 1905, when his administration had lost a strategic legislative battle on the floor of the Senate, he called each of the men who had led the opposition to the White House. Expecting an angry tirade or an hysterical harangue, the Senators were surprised when Roosevelt anxiously gathered them around his desk and asked for their advice. “How could I have handled this bill better? What did I say or not say to cause you to oppose it? What should I do in the future to better advance my principles?” The men were stunned. There was no recrimination. There were no lectures. There were no threats. Instead, they found in the President an eager learner—ready to accept the blame for his own shortcomings and then to try to move on and do better on another day. One of them later confessed, “I learned more about leadership and greatness in that one incident than in all my previous years in politics.”

Elihu Root, who served as Roosevelt’s Secretary of State, called him “the most advisable man I ever knew.” “If he was convinced of your sincerity,” said the Progressive leader Albert Beveridge, “you could say anything to him you liked. You could even criticize him personally.” And the author and social reformer Herbert Croly remarked that he had “never met a man so eager to learn from his mistakes—or even so ready to admit them. It was as if he had no ego.”

Roosevelt was not simply a hopeless romantic or and unrealistic optimist in this regard. Rather he was a man who was secure enough in his calling and purpose in life to remain undeterred by obstacles along the way—be they great or small. His son, Kermit explained, “Some men have a strong sense of destiny. I cannot say that Father could ever fully identify such sentiments in his own experience. But I am quite certain that he knew what to work toward. Whether he ever actually attained to it was another matter altogether—and one of little concern to him.”

For Roosevelt, true leadership not only involved a strength of character that was unafraid to admit failure, was willing to learn from error, and was quick to accept wise counsel, it also involved a sense of calling that was able to integrate such virtues into life with real confidence. For him, failure was merely the backdoor to success.

Wednesday, November 26

Taken for Granted

"The greater God’s gifts and works, the less they are regarded."
--Martin Luther in Table Talk

"If the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they are there every night, we barely give them a look." --Ralph Waldo Emerson in The Essays

"We don't ever take our adversities for granted--only our blessings."
--Dan Gylberd in Going Somewhere

Tuesday, November 25

Caedman's "Coffee"

As I was meditating on the strange ironies of Nehemiah 6:1-9, I could not help but remember a poignant, similarly-themed song from Caedman's Call:

I am small; I've seen things far beyond these city walls
The land is flat and it rolls for miles
I don't know much
I know I've many places yet to see
I know I've been here for a while

Wouldn't you know just when I thought I had this figured out
I'm back at my first day at school
Trying not to think too loud
I raise my hand to scratch my head
I've no ideas of what to do

'Cause something's changed today
And what it is I just can't say
And if I don't seem okay, well I'm okay

So sue me! Sue me!
If I just don't want coffee tonight
Back in this coffee house where we just met a week ago
Now we've been friends since we were young
But all our conversations are hitting walls we can't ignore
We can hide but we can't run
And I can't run from you
Or what we've run into
Now regardless what I choose, we both lose

It must be getting late
Where's my head
Where is my head
Where is my head

I still hear you telling me what a big mistake I've made
Funny that's what I've been telling you
I can lead a horse to water
You can even make him drink
But you can't change his point of view

Tonight as I was driving home I passed a coffee shop
You know I wrestled with the truth
And how I'd explain to you
What you could never understand
And how I'd keep my mind from you

But that's the price I pay
Your way is not my way
Today's another day and it's okay

So sue me! Sue me!
If I just don't want coffee tonight
Back in this coffee house where we just met a week ago
Now we've been friends since we were young
But all our conversations are hitting walls we can't ignore
We can hide but we can't run
And I can't run from you
Or what we've run into
Now regardless what I choose, we both lose

I think I need some rest
Rest my head, arrest my head
Rest my head, arrest my head
Rest my head, arrest my head

Sunday, November 23

No Eleventary Today

Ugh! No eleventary for the Titans--at least not until Thursday.

Saturday, November 22

First Steps

There is just so much to like about Kerry Collins. Even if his Tennessee Titans fail to win another game this season, his unlikely leadership, his rare humility, his forthright honesty, and his gutsy return to football prominence make him one of the most refreshing figures in sports today. Even ESPN says so! In Rick Reilly's most recent column, he makes the point as only Rick Reilly could:

I like Kerry Collins. Whether he plays like Fran Tarkenton or Fran Drescher, he never makes excuses. After he performed like a Xanaxed ferret in the 2001 Super Bowl, lobbing four picks to the Ravens in the Giants' blowout loss, he stood at the podium postgame and said, "I sucked today. I was prepared. I was ready. I just played terrible." No matter how he screws up his life—and the young Collins found more ways than MapQuest—he always faces the music. Hell, he sticks his face in the tuba.

Agreed. I have no idea if Collins is a believer, or if he has any understanding of the Gospel at all. But, it is clear, he knows a thing or two about the fallenness of man, the need for redemption, and at the very least, the first steps toward repentance. So, it probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I am rooting for Kerry Collins to achieve a for-real Eleventary tomorrow against another of my sports favs, Brett Favre.

Tuesday, November 18

Genuine Compassion

"The definition of genuine compassion is the number of people who no longer need government assistance." --J.C. Watts

Monday, November 17

The True Discoverer

"The true discoverer is not he who stumbles across that which none else has stumbled but he who beholds its wonder and tells of its glory and makes use of its stewardship." --Seneca

Saturday, November 15

New College Franklin

Many readers of this blog probably already know of the work we began 18 months ago to establish New College Franklin, a four-year liberal arts college--following in the footsteps of the great pioneers of the classical and Christian tradition. The work continues behind the scenes as we prepare our application for authorization by the State of Tennessee--no little feat. Lord willing, we hope to have the license for state authorization complete in 2009 so we can open officially and begin offering our courses for full credit.

Just this past week, we released our first e-newsletter from the college. If you are not already on the mailing list, you can sign up to receive this and all future newsletters--just e-mail our dean of students and administrator, Matt Vest, and he will bring you quickly up to speed (Matt.Vest@KingsMeadow.com).

We are also well on the way to achieving our goal to have at least fifty "Psalm 89 Founders" join us in building strong financial foundations for the school. We are convinced that this work of covenantal education and succession is more critical now than ever. Won't you join us and support the growing work of New College Franklin?

Mountain Aires Christmas

I just got my first new Christmas CD of the season. And it is a dandy. The Mountain Aires are a group of young acoustic musicians from North Carolina. Their debut effort, Echo the Legacy, was a a unique blend of traditional Bluegrass, Celtic, Folk, and Gospel tunes. For their newest project, they maintained their distinctive sound, mature arrangements, and exuberant musicianship for a joyous celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. There are fifteen cuts including standards like Good King Wenceslas, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Jingle Bells, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Joy to the World. Combined with less familiar tunes like Bonaire Sleigh Ride, Ding-Dong Merrily On High, Duan Nollaig, Hiemo, and Pat-a-Pan, the collection will be a welcome accompaniment to your holiday merry-making. So, be sure to get your own copy of the CD--now available on the Mountain Aires Website.

Thursday, November 13

The Father of Western Civilization

The great African theologian, Augustine of Hippo, was born on this day in 354 at the Roman city of Tagaste, Numidia--in present-day Algeria. His father, Patricius was a pagan, but his mother, Monica, was a devout Christian who labored untiringly for her son's conversion and who was canonized by the church.

Augustine was educated as a rhetorician in the North African cities of Madaura, and Carthage. As a young man, he lived a dissolute life—indeed, between the ages of 15 and 30, he lived with a Carthaginian concubine who bore him a son, whom he named Adeodatus. Nevertheless, he was an inspired intellectual and thus, Augustine became an earnest seeker after truth. He considered becoming a Christian, but experimented with several philosophical systems before finally entering the church while teaching rhetoric in the city of Milan.

Shortly afterward, he returned to North Africa and was ordained in 391. He became bishop of Hippo in 395, an office he held until his death. It was a period of political and theological unrest, for while the barbarians pressed in upon the empire, even sacking Rome itself in 410, schism and heresy also threatened the church. Augustine threw himself wholeheartedly into the theological battle writing innumerable works of lasting significance--the chief of which are his Confessions and The City of God.

Many scholars believe that in a very real sense these works established the principles upon which Western Christendom would be established in the generations afterward.

Wednesday, November 12

Saturday, November 8

The Idol of Self

"People will be lovers of SELF" 2 Timothy 3:2
The passions of discontent, pride, and envy--exert themselves in each of us. We are fallen into a state of gross idolatry--and SELF is the idol we worship! The principle of SELF is deep-rooted in every heart, and is the spring of every action--until grace infuses a new principle, and SELF, like Dagon, falls before the Lord Almighty! --John Newton

Self-Worship and Modernity's Mess

We are prone to think of God--when we think of Him at all--as wonderful. We are less likely to see Him as willful. Certainly He is both, but the overwhelming emphasis of Scripture is upon the will rather than the wonder. It is upon the exercise of God's prerogative rather than the expiation of our pleasure. The difference is probably a matter of slights rather than slanders. Nevertheless, it is a difference that makes for rather dramatic consequences.

Thus, to some of us God is little more than a cosmic vending machine in the sky, designed to dispense our every want and whim. To others of us He is a grandfatherly sage who lives to patiently offer us certain therapeutic benefits and baubles from His largess. To still others He is a kind of Santa figure--jolly, unflappable, and determined to bestow goodies upon incognizant masses. Invariably though, we moderns tend to see God in terms of ourselves--in terms of our wants, our needs, our preferences, and our desires. We have apparently, as Voltaire accused, "made God in our own image."

But, according to psychologist Paul Vitz, such a conception is not knowledge of God at all, but a form of "self-worship." According to J.C. Ryle, it is "the cruelest of all delusions" because "by it men think they have come to a knowledge God when in fact they have done nothing of the sort." Thus, Joseph Aulen has argued that "the vast proportion of modern Christians have a vastly mistaken knowledge of the person and work of the Almighty."

Thus, according to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "because men do not know God or the nature of God--particularly those who claim to be Christians--all of the problems of life and culture are amplified even more." Andrew Murray asserts that it is due to the fact that Christians do not "properly entertain a knowledge of God" that "societies fall into such disarray as we have in the modern world." And A.W. Tozer has said that "a lack of a true knowledge of God's attributes and character" is the "root of the indecisiveness, imbalance, and ineffectiveness" of the contemporary church.”

Wednesday, November 5

The Day After

"Politics is not an event but a process. We sometimes lose the events but it never gives us the right to stop being faithful to our principles that enlisted us in the process. We shall live to fight another day."
--Mike Huckabee

All Hail to the King

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Tuesday, November 4

Election Day Reminders

America's foremost comedian, Will Rogers, was born near Oolagah, Oklahoma on this day in 1897. He often lampooned politics and politicians in his beloved nation--famously saying:

“There is no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.”

“I belong to no organized political party--I’m a Democrat.”

“There is something about a Republican that you can only stand him for just so long. On the other hand, there is something about a Democrat that you can’t stand him for quite that long.”

“Democrats are the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected to prove it.”

“No party is as bad as its leaders.”


Good reminders as we go to the polls today. Politics is of course important--but, because it is just politics, it is certainly not all important.

More Election Day Wisdom

"Being in politics is like being a football coach: you have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it’s important." Eugene McCarthy

“If it were not for government, we should have nothing left to laugh at.” Nicholas Chamfort

“The worst thing in the world, next to anarchy, is government.” Henry Ward Beecher

“Two characteristics of government are that it cannot do anything quickly, and that it never knows when to quit.” George Stigler

“When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.” G.K. Chesterton

“In government, the sin of pride manifests itself in the recurring delusion that things are under control.” George Will

“We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain bad laws.” G.K. Chesterton

“The most terrifying words in the English language are, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Ronald Reagan

“If I knew that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.” Henry David Thoreau

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely expressed for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent busybodies.” C.S. Lewis

“If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.” Harry Truman

“You can’t even trust the dogs in this town.” Clarence Thomas

"If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments." G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, November 2

Saturday, November 1

Suddenly Too Close to Call?

In a stunning new report, pollster John Zogby has Republican John McCain starting to pull ahead in the race for president for the first time in more than a month. "Is McCain making a move?" he asks. "The three-day average holds steady, but McCain outpolled Obama today, 48% to 47%. He is beginning to cut into Obama's lead among independents, is now leading among blue collar voters, has strengthened his lead among investors and among men, and is walloping Obama among NASCAR voters. Joe the Plumber may get his license after all."

In addition, he says, "Obama's lead among women declined, and it looks like it is occurring because McCain is solidifying the support of conservative women, which is something we saw last time McCain picked up in the polls. If McCain has a good day tomorrow, we will eliminate Obama's good day three days ago, and we could really see some tightening in this rolling average. But for now, hold on."

With other pollsters, including Gallup, Rasmussen, and TIPP, predicting an Obama cakewalk, it is apparent that volatility is not limited to stocks and mortgages.

Friday, October 31

Reformation Day

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483. He was descended from the peasantry, a fact in which he took great pride. His father was a copper miner in the mining area of Mansfeld—but humble as he was, he determined to procure a sound education for his children. Thus, Luther received a Brethren of the Common Life education at Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Eisenach. In 1501, he enrolled at the University of Erfurt, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1502 and his master's degree in 1505. He then intended to study law, as his father wished.

But in the summer of 1505, he suddenly abandoned his studies, sold his books, and entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. The decision surprised his friends and appalled his father. Later in life, Luther explained it by recalling several brushes with death making him astutely aware of the fleeting character of life. Luther made his profession as a monk following year and was ordained as a priest the year after that.

After his ordination, Luther was asked to study theology in order to become a professor at one of the many new German universities. The following year he was assigned by Johann von Staupitz, vicar-general of the Augustinians and a friend and counselor, to the University of Wittenberg which had been founded just six years earlier. He was to give introductory lectures in moral philosophy. Two years later, he had the opportunity to visit Rome and was shocked by the worldliness of the Roman clergy.

Increasingly concerned about corruption within the church—both material and spiritual—Luther suddenly became a public and controversial figure when he published his Ninety-Five Theses, on this day in 1517. They were supremely academic in character—Latin propositions opposing the manner in which indulgences were being sold to raise money for the construction of Saint Peter's in Rome.

The Theses caused great excitement and were immediately translated into German and widely distributed. Luther's spirited defense and further development of his position through public university debates in Wittenberg and other cities resulted in an investigation by the Roman Curia that led to his condemnation three years later and his excommunication a year after that in 1521. Summoned to appear before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in April 1521, he was asked before the assembled secular and ecclesiastical rulers to recant. He refused firmly, asserting that he would have to be convinced by Scripture and clear reason in order to do so, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Condemned by the emperor, Luther was spirited away by his prince, the elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony, and kept in hiding at Wartburg Castle. There he began his translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into German, a seminal contribution to the development of a standard German language. Disorders in Wittenberg caused by some of his more extreme followers forced his return to the city in March 1521, and he restored peace through a series of sermons.

By that time, it was clear that the protesting churches—or Protestants—would not succeed in reforming the whole church as Luther had wished, and so they established a new ecclesiastical structure rooted in the idea of Sola Scriptura, (Scripture Alone). Thus was born the Reformation.

All Hallow’s Eve

Many of the ancient peoples of Europe marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter by celebrating a holiday in late autumn. The most important of these holidays to influence later customs was Samhain, a holiday observed by the ancient Celts. Samhain marked the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

According to their tradition, the spirits of those who had died in the preceding year roamed the earth on Samhain evening. The Celts sought to ward off these spirits with offerings of food and drink. They also built bonfires at sacred hilltop sites and performed rituals, often involving human and animal sacrifices, to honor Druid deities.

When the Celts were absorbed into the Roman empire, many of their traditions were adapted by the conquerors as a part of their own celebrations. In Britain, Romans blended local Samhain customs with their own pagan harvest festival honoring Pomona, goddess of fruit trees—from which the game of bobbing for apples was derived. In many places such as Scotland and Ireland, Samhain was abandoned only when the local people converted to Christianity during the early Middle Ages. But even then, pagan folk observances were linked to a number of Christian holidays.

Thus, many of the old Samhain traditions thought to be incompatible with Christianity often became linked with Christian folk beliefs about evil spirits in the celebration of Halloween. Although such superstitions varied a great deal from place to place, many of the supernatural beings now associated with the holiday became fixed in the popular imagination during the Renaissance.

In British folklore, small magical beings known as fairies became associated with Halloween mischief. The jack-o’-lantern, originally carved from a large turnip rather than a pumpkin, originated in medieval Scotland. As belief in many of the old superstitions waned during the late 19th century, Halloween was increasingly regarded as a children’s holiday. Beginning in the 20th century, Halloween mischief gradually transformed into the modern ritual of trick-or-treating. Eventually, Halloween treats were plentiful while tricks became rare.

Wednesday, October 29

Kuyper Day

On this day in 1907, the entire nation of the Netherlands celebrated the seventieth birthday of Abraham Kuyper. A national proclamation recognized that "the history of the Netherlands, in Church, in State, in Society, in Press, in School, and in the Sciences the last forty years, cannot be written without the mention of his name on almost every page, for during this period the biography of Dr. Kuyper is to a considerable extent the history of the Netherlands."

The boy who was born in 1837 was at first thought to be dull, but by the time he was twelve he had entered the Gymnasium. Years later he would graduate with highest possible honors from Leyden University. In short order he earned his masters and doctoral degrees in theology before serving as minister at Breesd and Utrecht.

The brilliant and articulate champion of Biblical faithfulness was called to serve in the city of Amsterdam in 1870. At the time, the religious life of the nation had dramatically declined. The church was cold and formal. There was no Bible curriculum in the schools and the Bible had no real influence in the life of the nation. Kuyper set out to change all of this in a flurry of activity.

In 1872, Kuyper founded the daily newspaper, De Standard. Shortly afterward he also founded De Heraut, a weekly devotional magazine. He continued as editor of both newspapers for over forty-five years--and both became very influential in spreading the winsome message of a consistent Christian worldview.

Two years later, in 1874, Kuyper was elected to the lower house of Parliament as the leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party--and he served there until 1877. Three years later he founded the Free University of Amsterdam, which asserted that the Bible was the foundation of every area of knowledge.

Following a stunning victory at the polls, Kuyper was summoned by Queen Wilhelmena to form a cabinet and become Prime Minister of the nation in 1902--a position he held for three years. A number of politicians were dissatisfied with Kuyper’s leadership because he refused to separate his theological and political views separate. To him, they were identical interests since Christ was king in every arena of human life. He believed that Christ rules not merely by the tradition of what He once was, spoke, did, and endured, but by a living power which even now, seated as He is at the right hand of God, He exercises over lands, nations, generations, families, and individuals.

Kuyper was undoubtedly a man of tremendous versatility—he was a noted linguist, theologian, university professor, politician, statesman, philosopher, scientist, publisher, author, journalist, and philanthropist. But amazingly, in spite of his many accomplishments and his tremendous urgency to redeem the time, Kuyper was also a man of the people.

In 1897, at the 25th anniversary of his establishment of De Standaard, Kuyper described the ruling passion of his life: "That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school, and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God."

Not One Square Inch

There is not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not say, "Mine!"
--Abraham Kuyper

Saturday, October 25

Saint Crispin's Day

Today is Saint Crispin's Day. Saint Crispin and his brother Crispinian were Christians who were martyred during the persecution by the Emperor Maximian in Rome. They preached to people during the day and made shoes at night in order to earn their living.

It was in 1415 that England’s King Henry V distinguished this old Christian feast day when against all odds his beleaguered army defeated the overwhelming force of French on the field of Agincourt.

The events of that day inspired Shakespeare’s famous monologue:

“If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer the men, the greater share of honor. God’s will, I pray thee, wish not one man more. This story shall the good man teach his son, and Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by from this day to the ending of the world but we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us on St. Crispin’s Day.”

Friday, October 24

Surprise, Surprise

What a surprise! The New York Times today endorsed the Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama. Last time around, the influential daily newspaper endorsed John Kerry. The time before that, it endorsed Al Gore. Before that, it was two consecutive endorsements for Bill Clinton. Before that, it was Michael Dukakis. Before that, it was Walter Mondale. Jimmy Carter got two nods. Before that, it was George McGovern. Before that, Hubert Humphrey. Before that, Lyndon Johnson. And before that, John Kennedy. Umm. See the trend? In the last 100 years, the Times has endorsed only three Republicans. It just makes you wonder why the paper even bothers to announce their picks anymore.

Book Selling

"When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue--you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night--there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean." --Christopher Morley

Our Shepherd

"Reason, as well as Scripture, may convince us, that he who gathers the outcasts of Israel, who heals the broken in heart, who upholds all that fall, raises up all that are bowed down, and upon whom the eyes of all wait for their support—can be no other than He who counts the number of the stars, and calls them all by their names, who is great in power, and whose understanding is infinite! To this purpose likewise, the prophet Isaiah describes this mighty Shepherd, Isaiah 40:9-17, both as to his person and office."

"But is not this indeed, the great mystery of godliness? How just is the Apostle's observation, that no man can say, Jesus Christ is the Lord—but by the Holy Spirit! How astonishing the thought—that the Maker of heaven and earth, the Holy One of Israel, before whose presence the earth shook, the heavens dropped, when he displayed a faint emblem of his majesty upon Sinai, should afterwards appear in the form of a servant, and hang upon a cross, the sport and scorn of wicked men!"

"I cannot wonder, that to the wise men of the world this appears absurd, unreasonable, and impossible; yet to right reason, to reason enlightened and sanctified, however amazing the proposition be—yet it appears true and necessary, upon a supposition that a holy God is pleased to pardon sinners in a way suited to display the solemn glories of his justice. The same arguments which prove that the blood of bulls and goats is insufficient to take away sin, will conclude against the utmost doings or sufferings of men or angels. The Redeemer of sinners must be mighty; he must have a personal dignity, to stamp such a value upon his undertakings, as that thereby God may appear just, as well as merciful, in justifying the ungodly for his sake; and he must be all-sufficient to bless, and almighty to protect—those who come unto him for safety and life."

"Such a one is our Shepherd. This is He of whom we, through grace, are enabled to say—we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."
--John Newton

Tuesday, October 21

Economics in One Easy Lesson

Economics, commonly known as the "dismal science," can actually be easily understood. Here are each of the basic economic philosophies explained in simple "two-cow" terms (first articulated years ago during a delightful dinner in Washington DC with Murray Rothbard):

Communalism: You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor.

Communism: You have two cows. The government takes them both and--from time to time--provides you with sour milk.

Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes them and sells you the milk.

Liberalism: You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, and then pours it down the drain.

Socialism: You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point that you must sell them both in order to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow which was a gift from your government.

Free-Market Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Centralized, Multi-National-Corporation-Based, Government-Subsidized, Democratic Socialism: You have two cows. You sell one, force the other to produce the milk of four cows and when it dies you write off the depreciation, hire a lobbyist, and garner a government bail-out and tax-breaks in order to purchase two new cows. Repeat.

Economics: A Second Lesson

My friend, Steve Henderson from Munich, sent me an addendum to the above posting:

An American Corporation: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

A French Corporation: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

A Japanese Corporation: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

A German Corporation: You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

A Brittish Corporation: You have two cows. Both are mad.

An Italian Corporation: You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.

A Swiss Corporation: You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

A Hindu Corporation: You have two cows. You worship them.

A Chinese Corporation: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the journalist who reported these numbers.

Enron Venture Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.

Monday, October 20

An Author's Last Wish

When I am dead
I hope it will be said:
His sins were scarlet,
But his books were read.

--Hilaire Belloc

Tuesday, October 14

House Wars, Punic and Otherwise

In his remarkable book entitled The Moral Sense, James Q. Wilson makes the point that "the best things in life" invariably "cost us something." We must sacrifice to attain them, to achieve them, to keep them, even to enjoy them. That is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life. It is the message that we know we ought to instill in our children: patience, commitment, diligence, constancy, and discipline will ultimately pay off if we are willing to defer gratification long enough for the seeds we have sown to sprout and bear. A flippant, shallow, and imprecise approach to anything--be it sports or academics or the trades or business or marriage--is ultimately self-defeating. It is not likely to satisfy any appetite--at least, not for long.

It was the modern abandonment of this kind of cultural substantiveness, this pattern of lifetime reading that provoked G.K. Chesterton to remark, "The great intellectual tradition that comes down to us from the past was never interrupted or lost through such trifles as the sack of Rome, the triumph of Attila, or all the barbarian invasions of the Dark Ages. It was lost after the introduction of printing, the discovery of America, the coming of the marvels of technology, the establishment of universal education, and all the enlightenment of the modern world. It was there, if anywhere, that there was lost or impatiently snapped the long thin delicate thread that had descended from distant antiquity; the thread of that unusual human hobby: the habit of thinking."

Happily, Ben House has, in his new book as in his whole life, undertaken the costly, difficult, and arduous process of reconnecting that long, thin, delicate thread for all of us. He has begun reconnecting it by preserving the practical lessons and profound legacies of Christendom without the petty prejudice of humanistic fashions or the parsimonious preference of Enlightenment innovations. He has begun reconnecting it, all the while avoiding the trap of noticing everything that went unnoticed in the past while failing to notice all that the past deemed notable.

Reading the chapters of Punic Wars and Culture Wars, it is evident that Ben understands that the best sort of history is always a series of lively adventure stories—and thus should be told without the cumbersome intrusion of arcane academic rhetoric or truck-loads of extraneous footnotes. History from that perspective is a romantic moral drama in a world gone impersonally scientific—and thus should be told with a measure of passion, unction, and verve. In Ben’s hands, history, books about history, and books about books about history come to life. Thus, these “irrelevant things,” as he has dubbed them in his introduction, actually prove to be among the most relevant of all things.

But, to have undertaken such a work as this, it is readily evident that Ben has had to work hard. By dint of great intellectual ardor, he has disciplined himself to think, concentrate, make connections, and draw conclusions—affording him a richness of insight that otherwise would not have been possible.

Ben ably demonstrates the fact that a healthy appreciation for the gritty work of history not only enables us to recall many of the famous lives, deaths, movements, triumphs, disasters, opportunities, and controversies, but it provides us with tantalizing details of some of the most important lessons and profoundest inspirations that the long legacy of human civilization has to offer us as well. In other words, Ben has undertaken the practice of that old discipline of moral philosophy—and he has done so without apology.

Henry Cabot Lodge once asserted, “Nearly all the historical work worth doing at the present moment in the English language is the work of shoveling off heaps of rubbish inherited from the immediate past.” This is precisely the kind of work that Ben House has undertaken here. Lots and lots of shoveling. Together with the great historians of the Christian tradition, he has snapped the spell of smothering modernity with a sane backward glance at the worldview that gave flower to the remarkable liberty, justice, and hope enjoyed by the lands of the West.

There are only a certain few books that actually have the power to ruin a reader. All too uncommon is the volume that can actually reshape your way of thinking, seeing, and living. Ben talks about a few of those rarities within the pages of this book (just out from Covenant Media Foundation). What he fails to tell us is that this book, his book, must necessarily take its place among them. So work through it—knowing that it very well may in fact, ruin you.

On the Nightstand



Friday, October 10

Demythologizing Columbus

1. Several sources make much out of the “fact” that Columbus “captured” more than 500 Native Americans on his second voyage to bring back to Isabella and Ferdinand. The problem with this much-repeated “fact” is that the second voyage included only 17 ships, each carrying less than 100 men. The crew numbered 1,200 alone—so, there was hardly room for another 50 souls, much less 500. Do the math. To be sure some Tainos Islanders were brought aboard ship and taken back to Castile and Aragon, but not as slaves. Rather, they were brought back more as exotic, foreign emissaries and representatives--the objects of both curiosity and evangelism.

2. It is often mentioned that Columbus brought his “captives” back from the second voyage in 1494 to be sold in the slave markets of Seville. The problem is that those markets did not open or receive royal sanction until 1508. Columbus died in 1506.

3. On the third voyage, his close friend and personal secretary, the young Bartolom√© de las Casas, began reworking the transcripts of Columbus’ logs—which is the sole source of virtually all of the Admiral’s writings. Years later, de las Casas would become the fiercest critic of the emerging imperialistic slave trade amongst the Castilian and Aragonese conquistadors. Interestingly, in his scathing and encyclopedic books exposing the horrors of chattel slavery, he never once criticized Columbus—or even implicated him to any degree. To de las Casas, Columbus always remained a Christian hero--flawed, like any other sinner, but a hero nonetheless.

When Panic Strikes

"Leaving the game plan is a sign of panic, and panic is not in our game plan." --Chuck Noll, Former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach and Four-Time Super Bowl Champion

Thursday, October 9

Jesus Shall Reign

English pastor, theologian, educator, reformer, and hymn writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748), published his first collection of groundbreaking Puritan and Reformed hymns on this day in 1707. Born in Southampton, he was educated at an academy for Dissenters at Stoke Newington—now part of London. After some years as a tutor, preacher, and assistant pastor, he became minister of a Dissenting church in London in 1702.

Watts's many books on theological subjects were very influential, including his Scripture History which was first published in 1732. Even better known, however, were his Horae Lyricae, a collection of Puritan poems, and his beloved hymn texts.

During his long and storied ministry, he published two hymn collections, Hymns and The Psalms of David. Among his hymns still sung are “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” I think my favorite though, is “Jesus Shall Reign,” from Psalm 72:

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
does its successive journeys run;
his kingdom spread from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.

To Jesus endless prayer be made,
and endless praises crown his head;
his name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song;
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his name.

Blessings abound where'er he reigns;
all prisoners leap and loose their chains;
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who suffer want are blest.

Let every creature rise and bring
honors peculiar to our King;
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen!

“If I offended anyone ... I apologize”

The latest issue of In Character, currently on newsstands, examines the vexing and omnipresent dilemma of the "false apology syndrome." With brilliant--and sometimes hilarious--articles by Charlotte Hays, Theodore Dalrymple, Wilfred McClay, and a host of other incisive writers, the entire journal explores the ways our concept of forgiveness has lost its original moorings, becoming little more than a matter of pop-therapy. It is by turns disturbing, provocative, funny, and insightful.

Coming October 14

Past, Present, Future

"The future is purchased at the cost of vision in the present." --Samuel Johnson

"Our future hope
Is bought with a price
Of a present vision
From a ancient wisdom."

--Tristan Gylberd

Wednesday, October 8

The Priority of Daily Life

"To know that which before us lies in daily life is the prime wisdom." --John Milton

The Bull Moose

At a campaign stop in Milwaukee on this day in 1912, a deranged, out-of-work bartender emerged from a crowd and shot Theodore Roosevelt in the chest at point-blank range.

Staggered by the impact of the bullet and the shock of the injury, the great man nevertheless righted himself. As the crowd converged on the man, the wounded former president cried, “Stand back! Don’t hurt the man! Bring him to me!” After examining his would-be assassin with a dismissive glare, he told his aides to get him to the rally. “This may be the last speech I deliver,” he admitted. Seeing that he was bleeding heavily, several doctors in Roosevelt’s party wanted to rush him to the hospital at once, but he waved them aside. “You just stay where you are,” he ordered. “I am going to make this speech and you might as well compose yourselves.” When they persisted, he said, “Get an ambulance or a carriage or anything you like at ten o’clock and I’ll go to the hospital, but I won’t go until I’ve finished my speech.” He then demanded that his driver proceed to the auditorium.

The crowd was told what had happened. But as Roosevelt appeared on the platform, the familiar figure smiled and waved weakly to the awestruck crowd. “It is true,” he whispered in a hoarse voice, “I have just been shot. But it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” Now beginning to gain his composure, he said, “Friends, I should ask you to be as quiet as possible. And please excuse me from making a long speech. I’ll do the best I can.” He then took his manuscript from his jacket; it had been pierced through by the bullet and was soaked with blood. “It is nothing,” he said as the people gasped. “I am not hurt badly. I have a message to deliver and will deliver it as long as there is life in my body.” The audience became deathly still as he went on to say, “I have had an A-1 time in life and I am having it now.”

He always had the ability to cast an intoxicating spell over crowds. Even now, his physical presence was dominating. Though he was bleeding profusely, he went on to speak for an hour and a half. By the end he had almost completely regained his typical stump fervor—rousing the crowd to several extended ovations. When at last he allowed his concerned party to take him to the hospital, the audience reached a near frenzy chanting “Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!”

At the hospital he joked and talked politics with his attendants. But his condition was hardly a joking matter. The surgeons found that the bullet had fractured his fourth rib and lodged close to his right lung. “It is largely due to the fact that he is a physical marvel that he was not mortally wounded,” observed one of them later. “He is one of the most powerful men I have ever seen on an operating table.”

Nevertheless, he was no longer a young buck—at the age of fifty-four. He was required—against his quite considerable will—to sit out the remainder of the campaign. Later, his biographers would view the incident as quintessential Roosevelt: imposing the sheer force of his will upon a seemingly impossible circumstance, and yet prevailing.

Monday, October 6

Palin on Fey

So, will Sarah spoof Tina on SNL? The odds are looking good for a classic TV moment.

Culture Shapers

Stephen Mansfield's op-ed piece this morning in USA Today highlights the vital role Evangelicals will play, not only in the upcoming election, but in the cultural twists and turns that are sure to follow in its wake.

Friday, October 3

Noonan on Palin

Far and away the best analysis I've read of last night's VP debate is Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal. She starts off with huzzahs, "She had him at 'Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?'" Absolutely.

But, then Noonan gets right down to the marrow, "Sarah Palin saved John McCain again Thursday night. She is the political equivalent of cardiac paddles: Clear! Zap! We've got a beat! She will re-electrify the base. More than that, an hour and a half of talking to America will take her to a new level of stardom. Watch her crowds this weekend. She's about to get jumpers, the old political name for people who are so excited to see you they start to jump."

After the bail-out debacle of the last two weeks when all the lead-actors from both sides of the aisle managed to disappoint us, there is finally a fresh breeze blowing.

Wednesday, October 1

The Trouble with Trouble

The world is full of difficulty. Because we live in a fallen world there will be conflicts. How we resolve those conflicts says a great deal about what we believe about truth, what truth actually is to us, whether or not it is objective or subjective, whether or not it is under our control (or whether we are under its control), and whether or not it’s our responsibility to do certain things in order to uphold it or enforce it. Ultimately, what we do with truth and error shapes the whole of history." --Tristan Gylberd

Tuesday, September 30

What Can the Rest of Us Do?

In times of crisis--national, financial, or cultural--how should we then live? What can we actually do--those of us who do not work on Capitol Hill or on Wall Street? According to Christian financial advisor, Dave Ramsey, there are at least three things we all need to do right now. His hard-hitting, plain-speaking, and sense-making plan includes a link to a common sense fix for the current fiscal crisis. Read it. Do it. And pass it on.

Free Grace and Hard Trials

I know no sweeter way to heaven than through free grace and hard trials together." Samuel Rutherford

Spurgeon and Books

Though he was best known as a world-renowned author, preacher, and philanthropist, the bookshops of London knew Charles Spurgeon as a voracious reader and an avid collector. He was the most famous preacher in the world for most of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Charles Spurgeon, then just barely twenty years old, became pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Church—formerly pastored by the famous Puritan’s John Gill and John Rippon. The young preacher was an immediate success. The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering in the tens of thousands—all in the days before electronic amplification. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle. It quickly became the largest congregation in the world.

In addition to pastoring that remarkable church, he was also the founder of more than sixty philanthropic institutions including orphanages, colporterage societies, schools, colleges, clinics, and hospitals. In addition he established more than twenty mission churches and dozens of Sunday and Ragged Schools throughout England.

But in the midst of the busyness of his life and ministry, he always found time to read. Books were his most constant companions and bookstores were his most regular haunts. He was born in the little Essex village of Kelvedon in 1834. Both his father and grandfather were pastors and so he was raised around books, reading, and piety. As a youngster, he began a life long habit of diligent and unending reading—typically he read six books per week, and was able to remember what he had read and where he had read it many years later. He particularly loved old books. He claimed in his autobiography that before he was ten years old, he preferred to go into his grandfather's study and pull down an old Puritan classic and read rather than go outside and play with friends.

As he grew older, his passion for books, and the little shops that sold them, remained unabated. Each day Spurgeon would scour the newspapers to find when an antiquarian book shop might be selling certain books. He would then beat a hasty path to the shop to purchase the treasure—or if he was too busy that day with appointments, he would send his secretary to buy the book. In time, his personal library numbered more than twelve thousand volumes.

The books were all shelved in Spurgeon’s study at Westwood, his family home. Of course, Spurgeon was not merely a collector. He was utilitarian, if anything. He viewed his books as the tools of his trade. And the shops where he found them were essentially his hardware stores. As a result, the books were used. They were hardly museum pieces, despite their scarcity or value. They were the natural extensions of his work and ministry. He once wrote, “My books are my tools. They also serve as my counsel, my consolation, and my comfort. They are my source of wisdom and the font of my education. They are my friends and my delights. They are my surety, when all else is awry, that I have set my confidence in the substantial things of truth and right.”

Friday, September 26

A Greater Depression

Want another Great Depression? Or perhaps an even Greater Depression? According to Congressman Ron Paul, here's an easy way to get your wish: just support the Treasury Secretary's proposed $1.8 Trillion Wall Street Bail-Out Plan. After all, it's taken straight out of the Hoover/FDR playbook. Forrest Gump's mama was right: "Stupid is as stupid does."

Wednesday, September 24

PETA's Ice Cream Gambit

No, Dave Berry did not make this up. Maybe it would be funny if he had. Maybe. Instead, it is just pathetic. The radical animal-rights activist group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has asked Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, to replace the cow's milk they use in their products with human breast milk. No really. According to PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman, the change would "lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health." Right. That's just what consumers need to improve their experience with a Cherry Garcia or Chunky Monkey double-scoop waffle cone!

Monday, September 22

High Tech Dumb

Did googling start making us stupid or did stupid start making us google? This is the question James Bowman takes up in a fascinating essay in The New Atlantis about short attention spans, technology, mass media, and the woes of our badly-educated, poorly-disciplined, and overly-pampered modern culture.

Saturday, September 20

The "Bush Doctrine"

When journalists chide politicians--in particular Republican politicians--for not being able to satisfactorily articulate just what the "Bush Doctrine" is or is not, they reveal little more than their own monumental insularity, narcissism, and hubris.

Consider: the term was not actually coined by the Bush Administration, but by editorial writers at the New York Times and Time magazine; it is almost universally used derisively by opponents of the "War on Terror," the administration's foreign policy principles, and the president himself; it is rarely ever clearly defined beyond a handful of broad ideological categories, catch-phrases, epithets, and accusations; many of the concepts supposedly contained in the "doctrine" have been forthrightly denied and rejected by administration officials and their defenders. So, since the Bush Administration does not claim to have a "Bush Doctrine" per se, which "Bush Doctrine" are we to discuss when the subject comes up? The "Bush Doctrine" of Charles Krauthammer, of Ben Wattenberg, of Anderson Cooper, of Charlie Gibson, of Robert Kaufman, or of the constantly-barking Move-On blog-dogs?

The bottom line is that the whole concept of the "Bush Doctrine" has become little more than a liberal media-fabricated exercise in intellectual-insider-trading.

Now, to be sure, someone like Sarah Palin probably ought to be up to snuff on the latest prog-left logomorphing jabberwocky--if only to point out its preening self-absorption and soaring egotism.

Friday, September 19

Get Your Pirattitude On

Arrr! Avast, ye lubbers! It's ye old International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day! Shiver me timbers!

To Autumn

John Keats wrote his remarkable poem, "To Autumn," in a single afternoon on this day in 1819. It was first published a year later in the Talor and Hessey edition of Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. It has been reprinted innumerable times since. In fact, according to University of North Carolina professor William Harmon, the three-stanza ode inspired by the beauty of the changing season has become the most anthologized poem in the English language:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Monday, September 15

Londinistan

The Labor government of Great Britain--the same government that recently endorsed Barack Obama in his presidential bid--has officially officially adopted Sharia Law, with special Islamic courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases. One must wonder if this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.

Sunday, September 14

TR Rex

On this day in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest man ever to become President when he was sworn in upon the death of President William McKinley. He was 42. McKinley died in Buffalo, New York, from gunshot wounds he had received at the Pan-American Exposition more than a week earlier.

Saturday, September 13

Worldviews Matter

"The most practical and important thing about a man is his view of the universe. For a landlady to consider a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. For a general to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy . The question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them." G.K. Chesterton

"As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." King Solomon

"Worldview is the most important thing that we can know about a man. Ideas have consequences. And those consequences affect everything in the practical realm as well as in the theoretical realm. Discernment of worldview is therefore the most necessary of all the tasks of wisdom." Richard Weaver

Friday, September 12

Get It?

"In some languages,” said the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, “a double negative yields an affirmative. In other languages, a double negative yields a more emphatic negative. Yet, curiously enough, I know of no language, either natural or artificial, in which a double affirmative yields a negative.” But then suddenly, from the back of the hall, in a round Brooklyn accent, came the comment, "Yeah, yeah."

Thursday, September 11

The Mufti's Prayer

Just two weeks before the brazen and horrific terrorist attacks were carried out on the Pentagon in Washington, DC and the World Trade Center in New York City, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheik Ekrima Sobri offered a chillingly prophetic prayer in the Al Aqsa Mosque:

“Allah, there is no strength but your strength. Destroy, therefore, the Zionist occupation and its helpers and its agents. Destroy the U.S. and its helpers and its agents. Destroy Britain and its helpers and its agents. Prepare those who will soon unite the Muslims of the world and march in the footsteps of Saladin. Allah, we ask you for forgiveness, forgiveness before death, and mercy and forgiveness after death. Allah, grant victory to Islam and the Muslim’s in the coming war.”

A host of questions immediately spring to mind: what did the supreme spiritual leader of Palestinian Muslims know and when did he know it? What war is he talking about? Why would he invoke such virulent hatred against the Western world? Why would he pronounce such fierce anathemas against the nations most responsible for brokering peace between his own people and the Israelis? Why would he reserve such impious enmity for the powers that had insured the transformation of Yasser Arafat from a rogue terrorist operative into a respected nationalist leader and his Palestinian Liberation Organization from a disreputable revolutionary cell into a legitimate regional government? Why would he so openly attack his land’s chief financial and political patrons?

Preparing the Way

Seven years ago, when President Bush was interrupted during a visit to a Sarasota, Florida elementary school with the news that a plane had struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, he had already been providentially prepared for the Herculean task of leadership that would follow.

Earlier that morning, his regular habit of reading a selection from Oswald Chamber’s classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, had led him to a very telling passage--how telling, he would have had no way of knowing at the time. Based on the model of servant-leadership from the Gospel of John, the short reading portended and portrayed the path the president would have to take in the difficult days ahead: “Ministering as opportunity surrounds us does not mean selecting our surroundings, it means being very selectly God's in any haphazard surroundings which He engineers for us. The characteristics we manifest in our immediate surroundings are indications of what we will be like in other surroundings.”

The President would indeed soon find himself in haphazard surroundings. The passage continued even more dramatically: “Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done.” And finally: “We have to go the ‘second mile’ with God. Some of us get played out in the first ten yards, because God compels us to go where we cannot see the way, and we say, ‘I will wait till I get nearer the big crisis.’ If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis.”

It is a great comfort to know that regardless of how magnificent or mundane our path may be in the days ahead, God is even now preparing the way for us.