Wednesday, January 30

FAS 101

Variously called the "Guru of the Fundamentalists," "Missionary to the Intellectuals," and "Godfather of Evangelicalism," Francis A. Schaeffer was born on this day 101 years ago. He was undoubtedly one of the most influential thinkers, theologians, authors, and apologists of the past generation. His books, tapes, and films gave new credibility to Evangelicals interested in the arts, culture, politics, and society.

After serving for a short time in Presbyterian congregations in the United States, he moved to Switzerland in 1948 to begin a unique missionary outreach—to whoever God would send to his door. Over the years literally thousands of students, skeptics, and searchers found their way to the door of the small mountain chalet that he shared with his wife and four children. Calling his work L'Abri—the French word for shelter—he set up a study center on this day and simply attempted to provide "honest answers to honest questions."

Asserting the Lordship of Christ over the totality of life, he wrote a series of intellectually stimulating books documenting the drift of Western art, music, ideas, and law from their Christian moorings. Though he had a wide following among academically minded Evangelicals beginning in the mid-sixties, it was not until the release of his book and film series How Should We Then Live? that he gained national and international notoriety. He followed that with another book and film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? which brought new prominence to the struggle against abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. But it was his book, A Christian Manifesto, that catalyzed the burgeoning Evangelical consensus in the culture.

Despite a difficult and protracted battle against cancer, over the last five years of his life, he gave the lion's share of his time, energies, and efforts to promoting the authority of Christ over every aspect of life and society. In both word and deed, Schaeffer confirmed the Gospel's message of light and life.

Monday, January 28

Ye Distant Spires

Ye distant spires, ye antique towers, 
Hold me in thy sway; 
Make me see, make me flee, 
Unto thy rich array. 
For there amidst, and there consist 
The root and branch and leaf, 
Of faith and hope and love persist 
In this, the world of grief. 
--Tristan Gylberd

Friday, January 25

Burns Night

Tonight is "Burns Night." The birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) has become an occasion for Scotsmen, their descendents, and their romantic wannabes, to gather together wherever they may be to the lilt of bagpipers and the strains of Burns’ poetry. Celebrants traditionally enter the rooms with the shout, “Hail Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-Race.” While the drinking of Scotch, and the requisite carousing that sometimes attends it, often marks such festivities, the traditional celebration is actually a formal dinner. The bill of faire generally includes roast lamb, haggis—a traditional Scottish grain and savory offal sausage—boiled potatoes, and shortbread for dessert.

Burns, of course, was the highly revered Scottish National Poet, was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. His best known works include Auld Lang Syne, Comin' Thro' the Rye, A Red, Red Rose, To a Mouse, and his collection Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. In 1859, at a centenary Burns Night dinner in Boston, Ralph Waldo Emerson would affirm that, “The Confession of Augsburg, the Declaration of Independence, the French Rights of Man, and the Marseillaise, are not more weighty than the songs of Robert Burns.”

All hail your honest rounded face,
Great chieftain of the pudding race;
Above them all you take your place,
Beef, tripe, or lamb:
You're worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your sides are like a distant hill
Your pin would help to mend a mill,
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distil,
Like amber bead.

His knife the rustic goodman wipes,
To cut you through with all his might,
Revealing your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, what a glorious sight,
Warm, welcome, rich.

Then plate for plate they stretch and strive,
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all the bloated stomachs by and by,
Are tight as drums.
The rustic goodman with a sigh,
His thanks he hums.

Let them that o'er his French ragout,
Or hotchpotch fit only for a sow,
Or fricassee that'll make you spew,
And with no wonder;
Look down with sneering scornful view,
On such a dinner.

Poor devil, see him eat his trash,
As feckless as a withered rush,
His spindly legs and good whip-lash,
His little feet
Through floods or over fields to dash,
O how unfit.

But, mark the rustic, haggis-fed;
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Grasp in his ample hands a flail
He'll make it whistle,
Stout legs and arms that never fail,
Proud as the thistle.

You powers that make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare.
Old Scotland wants no stinking ware,
That slops in dishes;
But if you grant her grateful prayer,
Give her a haggis.

Monday, January 21

My Friend

You have, to be sure, known pain and fear,
And the anguish of failure and frustration are near;
Yet your eyes read companionship not distance,
Your home beckons forth, with no hint of resistance;
Indeed, your cloak, though threadbare, is half mine,
You are my friend, and I, most assuredly, am thine.
--Tristan Gylberd

Saturday, January 19

Roe at 40: The Logic of the Dark Side

"Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side. You have paid the price for your lack of vision." Emperor Palpatine

“Give yourself to the dark side. It is the only way you can save your friends.” Darth Vader 

“Learn to use the Dark Side of the Force. Good! Your hate has made you powerful.” Emperor Palpatine

Saturday, January 12

Weird Science

Watkins’ Bookshop in Cecil Court, just off Charing Cross between Leicester Square and Covent Garden in London, was established in 1891 by John Watkins, and is still London’s premier occult bookstore. One of its most famous customers was Carl Gustav Jung, who would together with Sigmund Freud, pioneer the field of psychology and psychotherapy. Watkins became Jung’s publisher, producing the1925 edition of Jung’s Seven Sermons to the Dead.

For a prominent scientist to choose an occult bookstore as the publisher of his book might seem odd, at first glance. But Jung had “received” this work via automatic writing. Jung believed he had a “spirit guide,” named “Philemon.” Jung observed that, “Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon was a force in me that was not myself. I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. Psychologically, Philemon offered me superior insight.”

To many scientists perhaps, Philemon might have been considered a figment of Jung’s imagination, or even evidence of his madness. But Jung felt that Philemon was real--even though he was "dead," he somehow was able to communicate. 

Jung was convinced he was not insane; he felt that Philemon was a valuable source of insight for him—indeed, he believed that his contact with Philemon opened the way for his new theory of the "collective unconscious," a kind of eternal data storehouse or spiritual wiki-library that contained all the knowledge, all the truth, and all the archetypes, or “active principles” in the cosmos.  Jung believed, that with the help of Philemon, he had tapped into a means of interaction between the “dimension of the dead,” the “world of dreams,” the “realm of the unconscious,” and ours.

The whole episode is a good reminder to us, as historian Paul Johnson so pointedly demonstrated in his book, Intellectuals, that many of the iconic pioneers of modern "science" were in fact, deeply troubled spiritually and psychologically.

It is also a sober reminder to us that what is often sold to us by pop-psychology methodologists as innocently wholistic and integrative health practices—such as “dream-catching” or “dream-work” or “yoga-fainting”—may well have far more nefarious roots than we might imagine.

Saturday, January 5

The Epiphany Hymn Rings Haste

Incarnational hope hastens hence
on bud, breeze, and blossom
grieving rynds banished in lilac scents.

Hark, the Epiphany Hymn rings haste
from its loveliest biding-place.

A lavish breach of winter's curt hard sword
an ardent repudiation of death's dark pall
the out-viening sun of the Christus Lord.

Hark, the Epiphany hymn rings haste
From its loveliest biding-place

At the refectory of your loving-care
the transfiguration clarion sounds a call
that didactae could ne're convey nor spare.

Hark, the Epiphany hymn rings haste
From its loveliest biding-place

Thus, Gospel comes ensconced in Word and Deed
and the evidence is your shimmering touch:
Christus Victor, shown in a life's sown seed.

Hark, the Epiphany hymn rings haste
From its loveliest biding-place
Tristan Gylberd

Epiphany: "Midnight Bright As Noon"

The King of Glory sends his Son
To make his entrance on this earth;
Behold the midnight bright as noon,
And heavenly hosts declare his birth.

About the young Redeemer's head
What wonders and what glories meet!
An unknown star arose, and led
The eastern sages to his feet.

Simeon and Anna both conspire
The infant-Saviour to proclaim;
Inward they felt the sacred fire,
And blessed the babe, and owned his name.

Let Jews and Greeks blaspheme aloud,
And treat the holy child with scorn;
Our souls adore the eternal God
Who condescended to be born.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)