“Biblicists are often so insistent that the Bible is God’s only complete, sufficient, and final word that they can easily forget in practice that before and above the Bible as God’s written word stands Jesus Christ, who is God’s living Word and ultimate and final self-revelation.”—Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible (via invisibleforeigner)
“I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.”—C.S. Lewis (Thanks to my friend Bryan Owens for sharing this.)
The new rebel in our time is a skeptic and will not entirely trust anything, and therefore he has no loyalty and he can’t even be a revolutionary.
The fact that he doubts everything, and he must doubt everything, bars his way when he wants to denounce anything.
For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine, and you can’t believe in a moral doctrine if all things are meaningless.
The modern revolutionary doubts not only the institutions that he denounces, but the doctrine of moral truth by which he denounces it.
As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, yet as a philosopher he has to admit that all life is a waste of time.
A Russian philosopher denounces a policeman for killing a peasant and then in his other writings proves that by the highest philosophical theory that the peasant should have killed himself.
A scientist goes to a political meeting where he complains that we are treating native peoples as beasts, and then he goes to a scientific meeting where he proves that we are beasts.
In short, the modern revolutionary, being an infinite skeptic, which he must be, is always engaged in undermining his own mind.
In his books on politics he attacks persons for trampling on morality, but in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on persons.
Therefore the modern rebel has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt by rebelling against everything, he has lost his right to rebel against anything…
There is a kind of thought that stops thought, and that is the only kind of thought that ought to be stopped.
(That’s actually one paragraph. I inserted line breaks because, frankly, every single one-hundred-ton line of it deserves to be held up to the light and considered. So… if life is meaningless, we have no basis whatsoever to say that anything or anybody is wrong. But if life isn’t meaningless, then there is such a thing as wisdom and folly. The question, then, is this: Who is wise? Who reveals truth? Who shows us the Way, the Truth, and the Life? If you want to explore this further, I highly recommend you take a few minutes and listen to this amusing and enthusiastic talk by Tim Keller. - Jeffrey Overstreet)
“Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.”—David McCullough (He continues: “We all know the old expression, “I’ll work my thoughts out on paper.” There’s something about the pen that focuses the brain in a way that nothing else does.”)
“When God wants to change the world, he doesn’t send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the mourners, those who are hungry and thirsty for God’s justice, the peacemakers, and so on. Just as God’s whole style, his chosen way of operating, reflects his generous love, sharing his rule with his human creatures, so the way in which those humans then have to behave if they are to be agents of Jesus’s lordship reflects in its turn the same sense of vulnerable, gentle, but powerful self-giving love.”—
N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus (p. 218)
I finished Wright’s new book a week-or-so ago. It is a potent introduction to and summary of his scholarship on Jesus. Hear a summary sermon from the man himself here.
“We enjoy caricatures of our friends because we do not want to think of their changing, above all, of their dying; we enjoy caricatures of our enemies because we do not want to consider the possibility of their having a change of heart so that we would have to forgive them.”—W. H. Auden (via ayjay)
At least one sports columnist has made the point that Joe Paterno, the 40 year coach of Penn State, who was fired last night (along with the university’s president) by the university’s board of trustees, should be remembered for all the good things he has stood for, and for his generosity and principles, even as this scandal, which brought his downfall, is now inevitably part of his legacy as well. And, well. I suspect that in time, even this horrible event will fade, and Paterno’s legacy, to football and to Penn State, will rise above the tarnishment, especially because it can and will be argued that Paterno did all that was legally required of him, expressed regret and horror, and was not the man who was, after all, performing the acts.
Here’s what I think about that, right now. I’m a science fiction writer, and one of the great stories of science fiction is “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” which was written by Ursula K. LeGuin. The story posits a fantastic utopian city, where everything is beautiful, with one catch: In order for all this comfort and beauty to exist, one child must be kept in filth and misery. Every citizen of Omelas, when they come of age, is told about that one blameless child being put through hell. And they have a choice: Accept that is the price for their perfect lives in Omelas, or walk away from that paradise, into uncertainty and possibly chaos.
At Pennsylvania State University, a grown man found a blameless child being put through hell. Other grown men learned of it. Each of them had to make their choice, and decide, fundamentally, whether the continuation of their utopia — or at very least the illusion of their utopia — was worth the pain and suffering of that one child. Through their actions, and their inactions, we know the choice they made.
Rob Harvilla’s review is basically every Pitchfork review cliché rolled into one article. The rambling prose that says so little with so much, the descriptors that serve only to obscure (“Instagram-folk”?!), the smug derision, the cleverness that exists for its own sake (again, “Instagram-folk”?!) — it’s all there. Perhaps worst of all, much of it isn’t actually about the album being reviewed but rather, focused on Zooey Deschanel’s current level of cultural cachet. (For example: “Even now the fates have begun chiseling her porcelain visage onto the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Mount Rushmore (preferably capturing the bewildered look she gave Billy Crudup at the end of Almost Famous), honoring her decade-long career as Twee Personified.”)
I’m not trying to simply call out Harvilla specifically: he’s certainly not the only person who writes in this sort of manner (and I’ve indulged in it myself, too). Nor am I saying that anecdotes, sarcasm, witticisms, and clever prose have no place in reviews. Rather, my point is that once your review becomes less concerned with the item you’re reviewing, and more concerned with how you are reviewing it, you’ve begun doing an actual disservice to your readers, not to mention the artist(s) you’re writing about. It’s a selfish, prideful approach that places you, the critic, above all else, and it communicates and breeds cynicism and contempt, qualities we don’t really need more of.
“Strangely enough, another misrepresentation, made passingly, stuck worse in my craw. Wood complained of the book’s protagonist: “We never see him thinking an abstract thought, or reading a book … or thinking about God and the meaning of life, or growing up in any of the conventional mental ways of the teenage Bildungsroman.” Now this, friends, is how you send an author scurrying back to his own pages, to be certain he isn’t going mad. I wasn’t. My huffy, bruised, two-page letter to Wood detailed the fifteen or twenty most obvious, most unmissable instances of my primary character’s reading: Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Lewis Carroll, Tolkien, Robert Heinlein, Mad magazine, as well as endless scenes of looking at comic books. Never mind the obsessive parsing of LP liner notes, or first-person narration which included moments like: “I read Peter Guralnick and Charlie Gillett and Greg Shaw…” That my novel took as one of its key subjects the seduction, and risk, of reading the lives around you as if they were an epic cartoon or frieze, not something in which you were yourself implicated, I couldn’t demand Wood observe. But not reading? This enraged me.”—Jonathan Lethem on being reviewed by James Wood. Lethem is going to get hammered for writing this — He’s showing his insecurities, he’s indulging his petty resentments, doesn’t he know that this only makes the critics want to trash him? — but I think he’s doing the right thing. Wood is a tremendously insightful critic, and a major stylist, but here is a case in which he says things that are manifestly not true in an attempt to discredit someone’s book. Those of us who write reviews are not obliged to like anything, and we can be as fiercely critical as we believe necessary, but we have an obligation to get our facts right. Wood really should apologize to Lethem and issue a correction, but that obviously isn’t going to happen. (via ayjay)
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh (via triadic)
One of the paradoxes you talk about is how the commitment of marriage actually produces freedom: the freedom to be truly ourselves, the freedom to be fully known, the freedom to be there in the future for those we love and who love us. Why do you believe that the commitment of marriage is viewed as largely anything but freeing today?
Our culture pits the two against each other. The culture says you have to be free from any obligation to really be free. The modern view of freedom is freedom from. It’s negative: freedom from any obligation, freedom from anybody telling me how I have to live my life. The biblical view is a richer view of freedom. It’s the freedom of—the freedom of joy, the freedom of realizing what I was designed to be.
If you don’t bind yourself to practice the piano for eight hours a day for ten years, you’ll never know the freedom of being able to sit down and express yourself through playing beautiful music. I don’t have that freedom. It’s very clear that to be able to do so is a freeing thing for people, with the diminishment of choice. And since freedom now is defined as all options, the power of choice, that’s freedom from. I don’t think ancient people saw these things as contradictions, but modern people do.