Thursday, December 26

Chesterton's "The Wise Men"

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a man of extraordinary wit, intellect, and insight. He was a prolific writer who engaged the leading intellectuals of his time in debates, always defending the cause of orthodoxy. It was his good and affable nature that made his adversaries also his friends. Chesterton was a master of conveying truth through paradox, and this poignant and pointed "after-Christmas poem" is a fine example of his rare gifts:

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but the truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served the mad gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly…it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(…We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.

Monday, December 23

"The Whip of Advent" by Tristan Gylberd



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

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

Wednesday, December 18

Chesterton's "Gloria in Profundis"


There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is split on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, December 11

One Thing


"This is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great all-comprehending theme." Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, November 28

Five Kernels of Corn

The first few winters in the New World were treacherous for the pioneer American colonists. At the fledgling Plymouth colony, settlers died in droves from both sickness and starvation during the bitter winter of 1620-21. In this verse by Hezekiah Butterworth, the necessity of rationing the meager food resources is set alongside the abundant moral reserves of the pilgrims. Long a part of the traditional New England holiday tradition—before the turkey is carved, each member of the family is served a mere five kernels of corn after which this inspiring poem is recited—the remembrance of Plymouth has become a symbol of the incredible blessing of this land:

Twas the year of the famine in Plymouth of old,
The ice and the snow from the thatched roofs had rolled;
Through the warm purple skies steered the geese o'er the seas,
And the woodpeckers tapped in the clocks of the trees;
And the boughs on the slopes to the south winds lay bare,
And dreaming of summer, the buds swelled in the air.
The pale Pilgrims welcomed each reddening morn;
There were left but for rations Five Kernels of Corn.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
But to Bradford a feast were Five Kernels of Corn!

"Five Kernels of Corn! Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye people, be glad for Five Kernels of Corn!"
So Bradford cried out on bleak Burial Hill,
And the thin women stood in their doors, white and still.
"Lo, the harbor of Plymouth rolls bright in the Spring,
The maples grow red, and the wood robins sing,
The west wind is blowing, and fading the snow
And the pleasant pines sing, and arbutuses blow.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
To each one be given Five Kernels of Corn!"

O Bradford of Austerfield haste on thy way.
The west winds are blowing o'er Provincetown Bay,
The white avens bloom, but the pine domes are chill,
And new graves have furrowed Precisioners' Hill!
"Give thanks, all ye people, the warm skies have come,
The hilltops are sunny, and green grows the holm,
And the trumpets of winds, and the white March is gone,
And ye still have left you Five Kernels of Corn.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye have for Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn!

"The raven's gift eat and be humble and pray,
A new light is breaking, and Truth leads your way;
One taper a thousand shall kindle: rejoice
That to you has been given the wilderness voice!"
O Bradford of Austerfield, daring the wave,
And safe though the sounding blasts leading the brave,
Of deeds such as thine was the free nation born,
And the festal world sings the "Five Kernels of Corn."
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
The nation gives thanks for Five Kernels of Corn!
To the Thanksgiving Feast bring Five Kernels of Corn!

Monday, November 11

Martinmas


Martin of Tours was a bishop who was martyred on this day in 397.  Also on this day in 655, Martin of Umbria was martyred during the great Monothelite controversy.  Both men demonstrated perseverance in the face of political persecution, personal humiliation, torture, starvation, and eventually, death, made them models of faith during the early medieval period.  

According to legend, Martin of Tours once cut his own coat in half to share it with a beggar.  Part of the cloak was saved and considered a holy relic in France, with monarchs going so far as to carry it into battle.  The cloak was kept in a "chapelle", from the French word "chape", meaning "cape," and its overseer was the "chapelain", from which, of course, we get our words "chapel" and "chaplain".

The spell of warmer weather often falling around this time is called Saint Martin's Summer, especially in England. During his final imprisonment, Martin of Umbria diligently kept the fasts of the Little Pascha, as Advent was then called, though he was already dying of hunger.  

Traditionally, Christians have recalled the faithfulness of both saints on November 11 by enjoying the last great feast of the season—in England a sumptuous banquet featuring beef is served.  The new wine is uncasked.  Good children receive gifts of fruit and nuts—while naughty children receive little more than sticks and stones and ashes.

Wednesday, November 6

G.K. Chesterton's "Hymn"


O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee. 

Tuesday, October 29

Abraham Kuyper


On this day in 1907, the entire nation of the Netherlands celebrated the seventieth birthday of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). 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 keep 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. As he famously declared at the Free University's inaugural convocation, "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!'"


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."




Saturday, October 19

The Source of Liberty

"Can the liberties of anyone or any people or any nation be secure, when we have removed the conviction that those liberties are the gift of God?" Thomas Jefferson

Monday, October 14

Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right

Son of a Lutheran pastor, Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708) attended the University of Jena, then joined the philosophy faculty there. In 1680, he became rector at Greyfriars, a little Reformed Classical School in Berlin. He would later decline several prominent academic appointments, including a full professorship at the University of Jena, choosing to stay with his beloeved covenant community in Berlin. Rodigast wrote this hymn to cheer his friend and fellow teacher, Severus Gastorius, who had become seriously ill. Gastorius not only recovered, but went on to write the tune for Rodigast’s words.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

His holy will abideth;

I will be still whate’er He doth;
 
And follow where He guideth;

He is my God; though dark my road,

He holds me that I shall not fall:

Wherefore to Him I leave it all. 

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

He is my Friend and Father;

He suffers naught to do me harm,

Though many storms may gather,

Now I may know both joy and woe,

Some day I shall see clearly

That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

Though now this cup, in drinking,

May bitter seem to my faint heart,

I take it, all unshrinking.

My God is true; each morn anew

Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,

And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

Here shall my stand be taken;

Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,

Yet I am not forsaken.

My Father’s care is round me there;

He holds me that I shall not fall:

And so to Him I leave it all.

Saturday, October 12

Coming Soon!

Coming November 10 from Standfast Books: a newly updated hardback edition of "Killer Angel."

Thursday, October 10

What I'm Reading Right Now


I've always got four or five books going--and they tend to be all over the map in terms of subject and genre.  But, I've just gone back for a reread of George MacDonald's novels "Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood" and "Seaboard Parish."  They always inspire my calling to disciple and to care for the least and the last.  I constantly need to be reminded of the covenantal nature of my work.  "Slow down, slow down" I hear MacDonald whispering to me.

I've also really loved Kevin Vanhoozer's "Everyday Theology" and T.S. Eliot's "The Idea of a Christian Society."  Both have been quite helpful for me in seeing the Kuyperian "Common Grace" connections between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Right now, I am devouring (for the third or fourth time) Dorothy Sayers' translation of "The Song of Roland." And for fun, I am trying to work up a "voice performance" version of Winthrop Mackworth Praed's lyrical poem "The Vicar."

Over fall break I am planning some reading/research into the 19th century Scots Ragged Schools movement of Thomas Guthrie.  And of course, I always have a Thomas Chalmers book I'm working through.  Currently, I am slowly plodding along in his "Lectures on Romans."

Friday, October 4

Immediate Results and the Clock of Providence



"Let us be neither over-sanguine nor over-melancholy of immediate results. Our perspective of time is only slowly synchronized to the clock of providence." Thomas Chalmers

Wednesday, September 11

Something Wicked This Way Comes


Throughout all of human history this is a truth that men have taken into account as they have dealt with one another, as they have conducted business, as they have passed laws, and as they have built civil societies.  It is the first and most basic insight of both anthropology and sociology.  Evil exists.  It wrecks havoc on our best laid plans and our sincerest intentions.  The world is infected by sin and populated by sinners.

No one ever had to teach a child how to sin.  No one was ever dependent upon a bad environment to learn how to be cruel or selfish or perverse.  No one ever needed older siblings to show them the ropes of greed, or pride, or dishonesty.

This natural inclination to sin is no petty or trivial matter.  Evil is destructive.  It is bent on death and thus runs roughshod over everything and everyone—including the person who perpetrates the evil in the first place.  If left unrestrained, evil morbidly embraces death.  For, “there is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12).

The landscape of evil is all too familiar to us.  We have seen it time after time during the course of the last century.  Broken bodies.  Cast off lives.  Stark naked tragedy.  Gore and devastation.  Sadness and sorrow.  There before us lay the vexing specter of mortality and the awful stench of death.  It is a gruesome panorama that defiles our senses and haunts our every waking thought.  It is a nightmare come to life.  The memory of it is carved onto the fleshly tablets of our hearts with a dull familiar blade—a blade variously wielded by Adolf Hitler, or Josef Stalin, or Mao Tse Dung, or Margaret Sanger, or Ho Chi Minh, or Idi Amin, or Pol Pot, or Saddam Hussein, or Osama bin Laden.  Indeed, the calamity of evil clutters the pages of human history.  Its pathos persistently torments the hodge podge ideals of human hope.  Replayed again and again and again, it has become a semeiotic symbol of the end of man and the end of his doing.

Every great society and every great institution has necessarily had to take evil into account.  The simple fact is that relativism is a practical impossibility because of the existence of evil.  If freedom is to survive, and civility is to prevail then evil must be restrained.           

Robert Goguet, in his authoritative history of the development of American judicial philosophy, argued that the genius of the Constitution was that it took this fully into account.  The Founding Fathers recognized that because evil was a present and horrible reality, they would have to choose some identifiable objective standard of good upon which to build cultural consensus.  Though many of them were not personally practicing Christians, the precedence they gave to Biblical morality was a matter of sober-headed practicality: “The more they meditated on the Biblical standards for civil morality, the more they perceived their wisdom and inspiration.  Those standards alone have the inestimable advantage never to have undergone any of the revolutions common to all human laws, which have always demanded frequent amendments; sometimes changes; sometimes additions; sometimes the retrenching of superfluities.  There has been nothing changed, nothing added, nothing retrenched from Biblical morality for above three thousand years.”

The American Framers were heavily influenced by the writings of Thomas Hooker, founder of the City of Hartford in the Connecticut Colony and learned Puritan divine.  Thus they agreed whole-heartedly with his oft quoted maxim on the wellspring of law and order in society: “Of law there can be no less acknowledged, than that her seat is in the bosom of God, her voice in the harmony of the world.  All things in heaven and on earth do her homage; the very least as doing her care, and the greatest as not exempt from her power.  Both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in a different sort of name, yet all with one uniform consent, admire her as the mother of their peace and joy.”

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court similarly affirmed the necessity of a standard of virtue for the proper maintenance of civil stability and order: “No human society has ever been able to maintain both order and freedom, both cohesiveness and liberty apart from the moral precepts of the Christian Religion applied and accepted by all the classes.  Should our Republic ere forget this fundamental precept of governance, men are certain to shed their responsibilities for licentiousness and this great experiment will then surely be doomed.”

Constitutional provisions such as the separation of powers, mixed government, checks and balances, jury trials, and civil rights were all predicated on the notion that left to their own devices men are helpless against the wiles of evil.  In this poor fallen world both sin and the sinners who sin must be restrained if justice is to prevail.  In order for there to be law and order, right and wrong not only must be defined, they must be accounted for in the very fabric of our relationships.

Thus, a brash and cavalier attitude toward any exclusive standard of goodness and morality is perhaps the single most distressing trait of modern relativism.  In the name of civil liberties, cultural diversity, and political-correctness it has pressed forward a radical agenda of willy-nilly moral corruption and ethical degeneration.  Ironically, its brazen disregard for any objective standard of decency and its passionately undeterred defense of perverse impropriety has actually threatened our liberties and diversity because it has threatened the foundations that made those things possible in the first place simply because it has no mechanism for the restraint of evil.  Unfettered evil is the enemy of any and all societies because unfettered evil makes the very idea of society impossible.

Relativism wants the privileges of civilization bestowed upon the citizenry as an unearned, undeserved, and unwarranted entitlement.  But great privileges bring with them great responsibilities.  Our remarkable freedom has been bought with a price.  And that price was moral diligence, virtuous sacrifice, and ethical uprightness over and against real and objective evil.  The legal commitment of relativism to any and all of the fanatically twisted fringes of American culture is a pathetically self-defeating crusade that has confused liberty with license.

Gardiner Spring, the eloquent pastor-patriot during the early nineteenth century in New York, persuasively argued that the kind of free society America aspired to be was utterly and completely impossible apart from moral integrity: “Every considerate friend of civil liberty, in order to be consistent with himself must be the friend of the Bible.  No tyrant has ever effectually conquered and subjugated a people whose liberties and public virtue were founded upon the Word of God.  After all, civil liberty is not freedom from restraint.  Men may be wisely and benevolently checked, and yet be free.  No man has a right to act as he thinks fit, irrespective of the wishes and interests of others.  This would be exemption from all law, and from the wholesome influence of social institutions.  Heaven itself would not be free, if this were freedom.  No created being holds any such liberty as this, by a divine warrant.  The spirit of subordination, so far from being inconsistent with liberty, is inseparable from it.”

Similarly, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the brilliant Russian novelist, historian, and Nobel laureate, has said: “Fifty years ago it would have seemed quite impossible in America that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose but simply for the satisfaction of his whims.  The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless.  It is time to defend, not so much human rights, as human obligations.”

According to James Q. Wilson, the shabby ambiguities of relativism are a kind of riot of second-bests: “Many people have persuaded themselves that no law has any foundation in a widely shared sense of justice; each is the arbitrary enactment of the politically powerful.  This is called legal realism, but it strikes me as utterly unrealistic.  Many people have persuaded themselves that children will be harmed if they are told right from wrong; instead they should be encouraged to discuss the merits of moral alternatives.  This is called values clarification, but I think it a recipe for confusion rather than clarity.  Many people have persuaded themselves that it is wrong to judge the customs of another society since there are no standards apart from custom on which such judgments can rest; presumably they would oppose infanticide only if it involved their own child.  This is sometimes called tolerance; I think a better name would be barbarism.”

The entire witness of Western civilization bears this out.  Thus, through the ages faithful men have boldly cut across the grain of comfort and convention, warning men and nations of their dire danger: evil lurks.

In the weeks and months immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington no one doubted the reality of wickedness.  No one doubted that there was such a thing as sin.  No one questioned whether or not our world was stricken by evil.  Suddenly, we once again found consensus in the reality of the fall.

Friday, September 6

Doublethink and Doublespeak

In his brilliant dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell perfectly and presciently described the kind of doublethink and doublespeak we have now come to expect of our modern politicians:

"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them, to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies--all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth." 

Extremism's Ongoing Saga in Egypt


Exactly one month before he was assassinated, on this day in 1981, Anwar Sadat attempted to appease the Islamic fundamentalists of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood by sanctioning fierce persecutions against the Christian minority and exiling Shenouda III, the Patriarch of the Coptic Church.  Christian lands were confiscated.  Hundreds of Christians were martyred.  And churches were desecrated and destroyed.  

Officially, the Sadat government attributed all the strife to the besieged Christians.  Nevertheless, the ploy failed to satisfy the Islamic hard liners and the assassination of Sadat was ordered and carried out.

The Miracle Mayflower


After having failed to sail from England on three earlier occasions and leaving behind her sister ship Speedwell, the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth for the New World on this day in 1620. 

Aboard were 101 passengers. Just ninety feet long and twenty-six feet wide, it hardly seemed the vessel to alter world history. The sailors cursed the pious passengers, whom they detested. Their food consisted of dried fish, cheese, and beer. The only sanitary accommodation was a single slop bucket. There was nowhere to bathe. Seasickness was rampant during storms. With little air below decks, the conditions were nauseating at the best. Despite this, only one passenger died at sea. 

Two months and five days after sailing, the ship landed at Cape Cod. Before going ashore the passengers signed their famous Mayflower Compact. And thus began the saga of the Pilgrims in their new home: America.

Monday, August 12

A Moral Foreign Policy



When the esteemed Senate Majority Leader, Henry Cabot Lodge, addressed his colleagues on this day in 1919, the nation was already in the midst of a “Great Debate” over its future foreign policy.  What was then called the Great War—what we call the First World War—had just ended.  Should the country now join the new League of Nations that President Woodrow Wilson had hammered into shape at the Versailles Peace Conference, or should the nation retain its traditional commitment to neutrality—as articulated in Washington’s hallowed Farewell Address

Utilizing carefully measured phrases and appealing to the mood of the audience Lodge’s speech somehow bridged the gap between the two positions and unleashed a storm of applause from the packed galleries.  A group of Marines, just returned from France, pounded their helmets enthusiastically against the gallery railing; men and women cheered, whistled, waved handkerchiefs and hats.  It was minutes before order could be restored, and when a Democratic Senator attempted to reply to Lodge’s arguments, his rebuttal was greeted with boos and hisses.

Lodge argued against any possible infringement of America’s sovereignty:

“I object in the strongest possible way to having the United States agree, directly or indirectly, to be controlled by a league which may at any time, and perfectly lawfully and in accordance with the terms of the covenant, be drawn in to deal with internal conflicts in other countries, no matter what those conflicts may be.  We should never permit the United States to be involved in any internal conflict in another country, except by the will of her people expressed through the Congress which represents them.”

Likewise, he argued for a strong moral stance regarding the horrors of war while at the same time ringing the bell of patriotism:

“In the Great War we were called upon to rescue the civilized world.  Did we fail?  On the contrary, we succeeded, succeeded largely and nobly, and we did it without any command from any league of nations.  When the emergency came, we met it, and we were able to meet it because we had built up on this continent the greatest and most powerful nation in the world, built it up under our own polices, in our own way, and one great element of our strength was the fact that we had held aloof and had not thrust ourselves into European quarrels; that we had no selfish interest to serve.  We made great sacrifices.  We have done splendid work.  I believe that we do not require to be told by foreign nations when we shall do work which freedom and civilization require.  I think we can move to victory much better under our own command than under the command of others.”

His logic, resounding with the moral fervor of his dear friend Teddy Roosevelt, won the day.  In the end, the League of Nations treaty was defeated and the policy Lodge elaborated became the foundation of all American foreign relations for much of the rest of the century. 

But alas, no more.

Thursday, August 1

Not Just Passing Through

"Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through a station: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind." C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, July 9

The Democracy of the Dead


"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about." G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, July 6

Uttermost Challenge: Week 1

This summer I'm running 500 miles, biking 1500 miles, and swimming 13 miles--along the way, I'll be joined by some of my friends and students. 

Why would we take on such a huge challenge, you ask? 

Well, we want to raise $30,000 for the Chalmers Fund to provide scholarships for worthy, needy students. Won't you support us?  You can give online right here, right now.

Meanwhile, here is the progress report for the first week:

Total running miles: 45.92
Total biking miles: 80.55

Day 7: Sabbath Rest
Day 6:  3.5 mile run and 22 miles on the bike
Day 5: 10 mile run and 22 miles on the bike 
Day 4: 3 mile run in the Firecracker 5K
Day 3: 8.25 mile run and 12.75 miles on the bike
Day 2: 11.4 mile run and 11.8 miles on the bike
Day 1: 9.77 mile run and 12 miles on the bike

Thursday, June 6

The Great Condescension



“The study of everything that stands connected with the death of Christ, whether it be in the types of the ceremonial law, the predictions of the prophets, the narratives of the gospels, the doctrines of the epistles, or the sublime vision of the Apocalypse, this is the food of the soul, the manna from heaven, the bread of life. This is meat indeed and drink indeed.” John Angell James

“It was great condescension that He who was God should be made in the likeness of flesh; but much greater that He who was holy should be made in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Matthew Henry

Monday, June 3

Gaining Our Liberty--and Losing It Again

On June 9, 1776, the Continental Congress accepted a resolution of Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee to appoint a committee to draft a declaration of secession from the dominions of the English King and Parliament. On June 29, the committee—composed of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston—presented their draft for debate and a vote. It was defeated twice and sent back to the committee for revision. Finally, on July 4, a newly amended version of that draft was accepted. The war that had been raging for more than a year had finally driven the reluctant revolutionaries to sever all ties with their motherland.

The document they finally approved was based on the “covenant lawsuit” sequences from Old Testament books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah and influenced by classic historical works of political, literary, and theological profundity such as Scotland’s Arbroath Declaration, Richard Hooker’s Laws of Polity, Richard Baxter’s Holy Commonwealth, and William Walwyn’s Good Samaritan. Not surprisingly, it contains some of the most beautiful and enduring political rhetoric ever written. Soaring phrases abound:

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“We hold these truths to be self‑evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

“We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

From the opening refrain the Declaration ringingly affirms the absolute standard upon which the founders hoped that liberty might be established. Appealing to the “Supreme Judge of the World” for guidance, and relying on His “Divine Providence” for wisdom, the framers committed themselves and their posterity to the absolute standard of “the laws of nature and of nature's God.” A just government exists, they argued, solely and completely to “provide guards” for the “future security” of that standard. Take away those guards, and liberty was simply not possible.

That is precisely why they felt compelled to so boldly declare their autonomy from the British realm. The activist government of the crown had become increasingly intrusive, burdensome, and fickle and thus the possibility of genuine liberty had been thrown into very real jeopardy. The founders merely protested the fashion and fancy of political, bureaucratic, and systemic innovation that had alienated the inalienable.

They said that the king’s government had, “erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” It had, “called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant. . .for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with the king's measures.” It had, “refused assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary to the public good.” It had, “imposed taxes without consent. . . taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our government.” And it had, “plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, destroyed the lives of our people. . .and excited domestic insurrections amongst us.”

The founders believed that no one in America could be absolutely secure under the king, because absoluteness had been thrown out of the now ideologically-tainted political vocabulary. Because certain rights had been abrogated for at least some citizens by a smothering, dominating political behemoth, all of the liberties of all the citizens were at risk because suddenly arbitrariness, relativism, and randomness had entered into the legal equation. The checks against petty partiality and blatant bias had been virtually disabled. The private sector had been swallowed up by the public.

Thus, they acted boldly to “form a more perfect union.” They launched a sublime experiment in liberty never before surpassed, never again matched. Author P.J. O’Rourke comments, “There are twenty-seven specific complaints against the British Crown set forth in the Declaration of Independence. To modern ears they still sound reasonable.” Reasonable, because they could all too easily be leveled against our present Federal Government in Washington.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for a very risky proposition indeed. In so doing they established a precedent for a courageous defense of principle which has been a hallmark of American civilization ever since--but which, alas, seems to be all too rapidly slipping away from us.