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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bits and pieces, 5/31/05

What you do for the least of these

Dan at Cerulean Sanctum, a wonderful blog I’ve just discovered, says some beautiful things about the utter necessity of helping one another.


As I have loved you

Catez at Allthings2all gives an example of true Christian friendship.


I’m a wanderer...just a wanderer...

Jollyblogger writes a thoughtful piece on dealing with “wayward children.” His focus is mainly on prodigal-type behavior, but what he says is applicable to any sort of rebellion from a child.
When kids start to wander parents tend to either go into panic mode or crackdown mode. This is harmful to both the parent and the kid. It robs the parent of any sense of peace and joy and it further alienates the kids.

True enough. I'm afraid I see myself in the “crackdown” category. Sometimes a kid does need to know what the deal really is and be required to face it, otherwise he/she will learn that accountability is negotiable and consequences avoidable. But oppressive crackdown is not helpful.

Pastor Wayne makes the point that some rebellion and wandering is to be expected in the maturation process. (We all rebel and wander to some extent, don't we?)


Take up your cross

Amy at Amy’s Humble Musings sees motherhood as a vehicle for sanctification. She quotes Elisabeth Elliot:
The routines of housework and of mothering may be seen as a kind of death, and it is appropriate that they should be, for they offer the chance, day after day, to lay down one’s life for others. Then they are no longer routines… A mother’s part in sustaining the life of her children and making it pleasant and comfortable is no triviality. It calls for self-sacrifice and humility, but it is the route, as was the humiliation of Jesus, to glory.

I don’t know that I would personally consider housework and the routines of mothering to be a kind of death. But certainly the loss of certain parts of oneself, be it temporary or ongoing, as well as the toll taken by the difficulties of motherhood, are a kind of death and I appreciate that admission. It grates on me when women seem to treat this self-sacrifice as something that should be as easy as falling off a log -- something that can be airbrushed with a glib, “Oh, just give it to Jesus, He will provide everything you need.” Yes, ultimately this is true, but it doesn’t acknowledge the difficulty, the death, involved. There is incomparable joy in motherhood, but there are also crosses to bear that can be heavy and dreadfully painful. We Praise God nevertheless for the opportunity to serve Him through the bearing and raising of children.


And I thought it only happened to me!

Gwyneth Paltrow losing her memory (since having a baby)...

(edited 5/31/05)

Saturday, May 28, 2005


(At least I think that's what it is)

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Christ the center

I have not read as much Dietrich Bonhoeffer as I would’ve liked to, therefore I recently purchased Christ the Center. I didn’t even need to get past the Translator’s Preface to be very glad for my purchase. In the Preface, Edwin H. Robertson gives an overview of Bonhoeffer’s christology as well as justification for English translation of the student notes which comprise the book. Before giving the lectures on which the notes were taken, Bonhoeffer himself said that his writings to that point had been critical; he had never written down the more positive side of his thought. But by studying Bonhoeffer’s earlier writings as well as the 1933 lectures reconstructed from students’ notes (Bonhoeffer’s own manuscript has not survived), we can “come close to the mind of Bonhoeffer.”

Bonhoeffer, says Robertson, may appear a radical theologian – an iconoclast – if quoted out of context. Yet he remained Lutheran and an orthodox churchman to the end. Regarding his well-known book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote, ‘I thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life, or something like it. It was in this phase that I wrote The Cost of Discipleship. Today I can see the dangers of this book, though I am prepared to stand by what I wrote.’ He had learned that only by living in this world completely could he acquire faith. Bonhoeffer's words are illustration that he was not a capricious theologian but rather one whose thought developed and matured over time and in relation to events with which he dealt.

To understand Bonhoeffer, one must understand the christology which was key to his thought. In 1932, he “denounced the appeal to ‘orders of creation,’” replacing it with ‘orders of preservation.’ Since the world we know is post-fall, things are no longer good because they were made good (an appeal to Genesis 1), but each order of Creation is good only if preserved by God for the sake of Christ. In other words, ‘[t]he solution of general ethical problems...must be sought only in the revelation of God in Christ, and not from orders of creation.’ (from No Rusty Swords)

Important to Bonhoeffer was the concept of ‘Gemeinde’, but evidently this term proves difficult to translate. Robertson preferred the term ‘community’. To Bonhoeffer, community (the Church) is indispensable to an understanding of Christ. ‘It is the mystery of the community that Christ is in her and, only through her, reaches to men [and women, of course]...The Church is the hidden Christ among only through the community which brings him Christ, which incorporates him in itself, takes him into its life...But because at the same time as individual he is fully a member of the community, therefore here alone is the continuity of his existence preserved in Christ. Therefore man can no longer understand himself from himself, but only from Christ.’ (from No Rusty Swords, emphasis added)

In an age in which “born-again” Christianity equates with “personal salvation,” an emphasis on community is much needed. This is not to downplay the necessity of a personal decision, but such a decision cannot really be understood except within the context of community.

Bonhoeffer rejected the notion that morality be imposed from without, and sought to build a new morality based upon the “renewal of the mind from within” as written in Romans 12:1-2. We ought not acquiesce to “outward forces trying to impose an alien pattern on the mind,” nor seek to imitate Christ, but rather allow the power of Christ working within to make us “fully human.” Humanity depends upon Christ for its authenticity.

Bonhoeffer claims that since the Renaissance, ‘Man has learnt to cope with all questions of importance without recourse to God as a working hypothesis.’ The Church has countered by “trying to bring in God and Christ.” But in trying to prove to the world that it cannot live ‘without the tutelage of God’, and convince it that it is really miserable when it thinks itself quite happy, Christ is misunderstood. Liberal theology fails, says Bonhoeffer, because “it allow[s]the world to assign Christ his place in the world.” Reform may fail because of an emphasis on religion rather than Christ. Bonhoeffer commended Barth insofar as Barth “showed the Church how to make the distinction between ‘religion’ and Christ.” But Barth failed to “enable the Church to discover a non-religious interpretation for its theological concepts.” Bonhoeffer held that the ‘full content, including the mythological concepts, must be maintained.’ The problem lies with “structures of religion,” not with a proper understanding of Christ.

In regards to Christ, Bonhoeffer’s question is never, ‘How?’, or ‘What,’ but always ‘Who?’ There must not even be a disguised “How?” or “What?” in the asking of “Who?”, i.e., “Whom do you say that I am?”

Indeed, this is the question we all must answer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Old apple trees

There’s an old family farm we occasion that is full of interesting...old things, like huge gnarled apple trees:

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Bits and pieces, 5/23/05

Check out this interesting (and long) discussion at the Sonlight Curriculum online forums on True Love Waits and the question, “At what age should women get married and begin having children?”

The thread actually began more than a year ago but was picked up again recently.


Prosthesis suggests that the word “supernatural” is not very useful.

Read his other posts too; he’s got some very perceptive stuff on ID (Intelligent Design).


Ed Jordan at MediaCulpa asks for recommendations for reading material on the subject of hell. In the comments, Lydia McGrew suggests C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce and writes:
Now, _just_ last night I was talking to a friend whose husband has left her. She told me how she tried recently to discuss some relationship stuff with him, asking him if he can forgive her for the wrongs she did him in the past. She said he couldn't seem to answer her question. Instead he just started going back over his grievances and talking about how he has a "men's support group" now for men who have been "hurt" by women, how these men "understand his issues," how no one ever feels sorry for men, and so forth. The wife said to me, "He's right where he was a year and a half ago." Now, put that together with Lewis's "whine going on forever" picture of a damned soul, and it's pretty scary. It makes me think about my own destructive habits of thought, self-pitying repetitions, as really being rejections of God and as being the kind of thing you can trap yourself inside of, in a sense.


Martin LaBar asks some great questions in Star Wars: Christian or not?

Oh, and did you know that kudzu is edible?


Dr. Throckmorton shares his thoughts on the studies that found a link between certain pheromones, body odors, and homosexuality that I mentioned in this post, here and here.


From my sweet 3-year-old daughter:

I have three husbands; not too many.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

To see but not see through

This is Part VIII, the final installment, of a review of The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. See Part VII for links to Parts I-VI.

Lewis continues with predictions of what will happen as the Controllers reinvent a system of values for Mankind:

Those who would debunk Traditional values and cut mankind out “into some fresh shape” at the arbitrary will of “some lucky few” will bring about new developments in language, which we most definitely see rampant in our present time of so-called political correctness: “Once we killed bad men: now we liquidate unsocial elements. Virtue has become integration and diligence dynamism, and boys likely to be worthy of a commission are ‘potential officer material.’ Most wonderful of all, the virtues of thrift and temperance, and even of ordinary intelligence, are sales-resistance.” (emphasis in original)

Lewis points out that “The true significance of what is going on has been concealed by the use of the abstraction Man,” but he is quick to say that the word “Man” itself is not necessarily “a pure abstraction.” If we speak from within the Tao, “we can speak of Man having power over himself in a sense truly analogous to an individual’s self-control.” (emphasis added) But this possibility disappears once we step outside the Tao.

Lewis predicts that his lecture will be taken by some to be an attack on science. He denies the charge outright, noting that the real “Natural Philosophers” will understand that in defending value, he is defending the value of knowledge, which itself can only be found within the Tao. He even goes so far as to suggest that “from Science herself the cure might come.” Reiterating the “magician’s bargain,” “that process whereby man surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power,” Lewis makes the point that “the scientist has succeeded where the magician failed,” and this has put “a wide contrast between them in popular thought” so that the real origins of Science are misunderstood. “The serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavor are twins: one was sickly and died; the other strong and throve. But...[t]hey were born of the same impulse.” (emphasis added)

Lewis allows that “some of the early scientists were actuated by a pure love of knowledge,” yet asserts that “if we consider the temper of that age as a whole we can discern the impulse of which I speak.” He explains that the problem of wise men of old was to conform the soul to reality, and the solution was “knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.” But for magic and applied science, “the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique. Both the magician and the applied scientist are therefore willing “to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious.” (emphasis added)

Lewis references Bacon and Marlowe’s Faustus to support his contention: Bacon, says Lewis, “condemns those who value knowledge as and end in itself: this, for him, is to use as a mistress for pleasure what ought to be a spouse for fruit.”

Ignoring the connotations of the term “mistress” for the moment, consider what Lewis is saying: rather than regarding the created as being valuable in and of itself, by the fact of its being created by God, and for the God-revealing characteristics it therefore possesses (which are worthy of admiration and awe), the created and the knowledge thereof are better used merely as tools for the production of something deemed more desirable. I don’t completely disagree that knowledge can be used to help our fellows, or that creation can be utilized toward this end. However, the overarching philosophical view toward this ought to be stewardship, in a unified understanding of the God-created value of all things. The line gets impossibly blurred, however, when all created things, including man, cease to be viewed with a sense of awe and reverence that can only be conferred via acknowledgment of a loving and providential Creator.

Again Lewis allows that the founders of modern science “were those whose love of truth exceeded their love of power...[b]ut the presence of the bad elements is not irrelevant to the direction the efficacy takes.” He concedes that the modern scientific movement may not have been tainted from birth, but observes that “it was born in an unhealthy neighborhood and at an inauspicious hour.”

“Its triumphs may have been too rapid and purchased at too high a price: reconsideration, and something like repentance, may be required.”


Lewis asks if it is therefore “possible to imagine a new Natural Philosophy, continually conscious that the ‘natural object’ produced by analysis and abstraction is not reality but only a view, and always correcting the abstraction, in other words, always checking itself against the Tao, against the inherent value of the created endowed upon it by the qualities of its Creator. “The regenerate science which I have in mind would not do even to minerals and vegetables what modern science threatens to do to man himself. When it explained it would not explain away. When it spoke of the parts it would remember the whole.” (emphasis added)

There would be “new light cast on the unknown thing, Instinct, by the inly known reality of conscience and not a reduction of conscience to the category of Instinct....In a word, it would conquer Nature without being at the same time conquered by her and buy knowledge at a lower cost than life.” (emphasis added)

At this point, Lewis realizes that he may be “asking impossibilities.” Perhaps an analytical understanding of things can only be had at the price of destroying what is being analyzed. Yet if the process cannot be arrested before “common Reason” is destroyed as well, then it must be stopped.

Lewis fears that his warning may be underappreciated, that his concern may be seen by the scientist as yet another barrier to the advancement of science that nevertheless “can be safely passed.” Such a treatment, says Lewis, is the result of “the fatal serialism of the modern imagination – the image of infinite unilinear progression which so haunts our minds. Because we have to use numbers so much we tend to think of every process as if it must be like the numeral series, where every step, to all eternity, is the same kind of step as the one before.” But he implores us to consider that “[t]here are progressions in which the last step is sui generis – incommensurable with the others – and in which to go the whole way is to undo all the labour of your previous journey. To reduce the Tao to a mere natural product is a step of that kind.”

In sum: “Up to that point, the kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost. But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away.”

“You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things forever;” eventually there will be nothing left to see through,” or rather, “then everything [will be] transparent,” i.e., invisible. This cannot be. “To see through all things is the same as not to see.”

Oh Lord, be Thou our vision...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Apple blossom special

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A loving reminder to myself

I Corinthians 13

This passage was read at a banquet I attended last evening. It struck me that, as well-known and well-loved as it is, it is also one of the hardest to keep in practice. For me anyway (I’ll speak for myself :-) ).

This is the part that got me, especially as I reflect on my blogging:

If I have the gift of prophecy (speaking God’s truth), and know all mysteries and all knowledge...but do not have love, it profits me nothing.


Not that I know all mysteries and all knowledge, good heavens, but I have always been a contemplative observer and seeker of understanding. It's been my history to come up with different understandings of things than most of the people around me. I contemplate in a holistic way, i.e., try to bring together what I can both sense and intuit and then articulate it, both for myself and others. This blog is one of the most recent endeavors in that regard.

But, alas, it is too easy for me to fixate on this effort and to forget why, ultimately, I ought to do it. In writing, especially. In person, I often refrain from saying what I could out of caution. I sense that the timing isn’t right, or I doubt my ability to put something across in a way that would edify or be taken well, therefore I keep quiet. On a blog, however, a computer is the interface. Besides, it seems that most of those who participate on blogs are those who actually enjoy hashing out ideas and thoughts -- which makes it a better venue for expressing them!

But sometimes I forget to think beyond the actual thoughts and ideas being expressed, by treating them in the abstract and not as statements that have meaning to those who make them. I deeply regret this!

Perhaps my confession will be of edification to others besides me :-)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

...For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now abide faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Bits and pieces, 5/15/05

America’s mixed-up values

Martin LaBar at Sun and Shield has a great post on lessons we can learn from Kwame Brown, such as:
...we, as a society, have our priorities messed up, worse than Kwame Brown has messed up his basketball career. When we pay people who take care of our kids, and try to fix the messes we make, like teachers, social workers, and policemen, so little, and so much to people who entertain us, there's something wrong.


We forgive you, Dr. Sproul

Kristen at Walking Circumspectly relates that R. C. Sproul has apologized for his statements about women and teaching that I mentioned here.


sola scriptura and Goedel's Theorem

Dawn Eden features a post by ZippyCatholic claiming that sola scriptura can be disproved via Goedel’s theorem. Whoa. If anyone has the time and concentration to plow through the 21 comments on Zippy's post and 167 comments to Dawn’s post, more power to them! I tried, but found the whole thing rather convoluted and nonsensical, not to mention over my head. Oh well. There are, however, a lot of very interesting points made, and argued, and counter-argued...


Time to switch deodorants

From FoxNews: a recent study found that
homosexual men's brains responded more like those of women when the men sniffed a chemical from the male hormone testosterone.

Sandra Witelson, an expexpert on brain anatomy and sexual orientation at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada...who was not part of the research team, said the findings clearly show a biological involvement in sexual orientation.

In a separate study looking at people's response to the body odors of others, researchers in Philadelphia found sharp differences between gay and straight men and women.

"Our findings support the contention that gender preference has a biological component that is reflected in both the production of different body odors and in the perception of and response to body odors," said neuroscientist Charles Wysocki, who led the study.

They found that gay men differed from heterosexual men and women and from lesbian women, both in terms of which body odors gay men preferred and how their own body odors were regarded by the other groups.


Seen on the friendly downtown marquee:

Why do we play at a recital, but we recite at a play?


Seen on a bumper sticker:

I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it!


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Saturday, May 14, 2005

The daffodil chronicles, part VIII

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(Part VII is here; scroll down for Part VI with links to Parts I-V)

Friday, May 13, 2005

From the qualitative to the quantitative

This is Part VII of a review of The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. (See Part VI for links to Parts I-V)

Continuing with the notion that something has to be overcome before we can “reduce it to the level of ‘Nature’,” Lewis gives examples of instances in which a “price is exacted for our analytical knowledge and manipulative power, even if we have ceased to count it. We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture.” (emphases added)

But beyond that loss of innocence, that “discovery that the real world is different from what we expected,” is not the fact that the greatest modern scientists feel sure that the “Natured” (or de-natured, as I would say, but that’s changing Lewis’ definition) objects are nevertheless “wholly real,” it is that the lesser scientists and their followers may think so. “The great minds know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something of its reality has been lost.” (Aha. In other words, the ones who are truly smart enough to be great scientists are also smart enough to realize what they are doing when making such artificial abstraction, meaning, there is disregard, or denial, going on among those who refuse to acknowledge it.) The purpose for this abstraction, of course, is that these things may be “conquered.” Yet “every conquest over Nature increases her domain” in that the “wresting of powers from Nature is also the surrendering of things to Nature.”

“As long as this process stops short of the final stage we may well hold that the gain outweighs the loss. But as soon as we take the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature, the whole process is stultified, for this time the being who stood to gain and the being who has been sacrificed are one and the same.”

In other words, by stripping things of their true nature, of their true identity, and reducing them to mere quantitative substances (Nature), we lose them; we give them up. We do the same with ourselves.

Lewis calls this the “magician’s bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. But once our souls, that is, our selves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls.” (emphasis added.)

This is so profound it hurts. It is just a staggeringly cogent illustration of the fact that we simply cannot own what is not ours. If we try to take it and make it our own and use it for our own purposes, we ruin it in the process. I don’t believe that Lewis is saying that we shouldn’t use boards from trees to build our houses, but rather that we should appreciate the seriousness of the charge of stewardship, and respect the board for its true properties and origin. (This is also not to suggest that we hug trees instead of making boards from them. How many tree-huggers really shun all tree products, anyway?) “It is in Man’s power to treat himself as a mere ‘natural object’ and his own judgments of value as raw material for scientific manipulation to alter at will.”

This is ultimately how a person with a naturalistic philosophical bent must view him- or herself, if he/she is to be completely honest and consistent. And how awful this is -– how demeaning, how disenfranchising, how empty! The only way such a person can find meaning in life is through hedonism. What other purpose could there be for living? “To leave the world a better place than I found it?” How, exactly? By good works? What about all one’s bad works (which are there whether “counted” or not)? The reasonings and justifications simply descend into a pit of contradictions and fallacies. To say that one finds meaning in bettering the lives of humans via “improvements” is to admit to one’s quantitative, not qualitative, view toward one’s own life and the lives of one’s fellows!

“...if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite...dehumanized...”

“We have been trying, like Lear, to have it both ways: to lay down our human prerogative and yet at the same time to retain it. It is impossible.”

The answer? “Only the Tao* provides a common human law of action which can overarch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.” Of a tyranny in which people are reduced to quantitative matter to be exploited (in the name of “improvement”), a tyranny of obedience which is really a subservience to manipulation. An obedience which is slavery to some quantitative goal, under the guise of being a qualitative one.

In how many ways do we make our lives quantitative rather than qualitative? In what ways do we think we are being qualitative when in fact we are actually being quantitative? Even as Christians? In what ways do we try to earn brownie points rather than honor the qualities of our Lord and Saviour, and, thereby, our own qualities and the qualities (the Tao) of everything and everyone around us? The implications are far-reaching and staggering. Think about the implications for bioethics, for reproductive- and stem-cell technology. For abortion. For sexuality. For the way we live our lives! I daresay that such introspection and analysis would be revealing for any of us.

Says Lewis, “I am not here thinking solely, perhaps not even chiefly, of those who are our public enemies at the moment [referring to Communists, political Democrats of the time, and Fascists]. The methods may at first differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany.”

Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

*This is explained in Part I

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Is it time to dance?

There’s a praise song called I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, and it's probably familiar to many if not most Evangelical Christians. Here are the lyrics:

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free
I'm happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down

I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free

I'm happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down

Oh, I feel like dancing
It's foolishness I know
But when the world has seen the
They will dance with joy
Like we're dancing now

Gratitude does lead to a good feeling, but that isn’t necessarily why someone could sing of the Father’s love forever. One can sing as an expression and as an offering but not necessarily while feeling happy or feeling like dancing. When something traumatic happens, the natural (and appropriate) human reaction is to feel terrible. Feeling terrible does not bring about happiness or dancing, usually. But can someone feel terrible while at the same time being able to sing, honestly, of the Father’s love forever? Of course!

Grief and anger and other “low” human feelings should not prevent us from worshiping. But must we always manufacture a feeling of happiness in order to worship? Of course not!

It can’t be appropriate to sing a song like this during corporate worship. Does it not create a sort of peer pressure to display “happy” emotion? Worshipers should certainly be free to dance, shout, or clap their hands during a worship service if they feel like it, but must we sing of our personal feelings, or of someone else’s? Should worshipers be put in a position of having to sing something they’re not feeling?

The joy we know and experience as a result of our relationship with God is not always a feeling. Joy is a natural response to knowing that God loves me and is in control no matter what happens. Joy is knowing that my destiny is in His hands, regardless of any feelings I may have regarding events or circumstances of my life at any particular moment. Of course joy can lead to happiness, but it doesn’t need to.

I realize I’m not saying anything new, but I wonder how many Christians really know the difference between feelings and true worship. We are to worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24) Not in emotion. Psalm 100 reads,

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who hath made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
And His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Now that brings out an exultant response within me, because the focus is entirely upon God and not upon someone else or upon their (or my) feelings. Even if I’m really feeling bad, I can still sing this Psalm and rejoice in its truth.

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven –
A time to give birth, and a time to die.
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal.
A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.

A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away [I need work on this one :o ]
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Magnolia ballet

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Nature against true nature

Or Tao-nature, as the case may be.

Welcome to Part VI of a look at C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.*

In Part V, we ended with Lewis’ contention that the only true option left to the person who has abandoned all reference to the Tao in determining value, is emotional impulse. Lewis continues by expressing a hope that “among the impulses which may arise in minds thus emptied of all ‘rational’ or ‘spiritual’ motives, some will be benevolent.” He is quite doubtful, however, that benevolent impulses stripped of their grounding in the Tao will have much influence. He does not find any examples in history.

Says Lewis, “I am inclined to think that the Conditioners will hate the conditioned.” He surmises that they will regard “as an illusion the artificial conscience which they produce in us their subjects” yet “perceive that it creates in us an illusion of meaning for our lives which compares favourably with the futility of their own.”

I do not follow Lewis here. Perhaps the Conditioners will hate the conditioned, but I would think that the form of this hate would be a failure to value them for their intrinsic worth, to value them only insofar as they can be manipulated or influenced. Or perhaps the Conditioners might value the conditioned as a sort of vicarious projection of themselves toward an improvement of mankind in general -- a legacy, if you will. I am doubtful that the Conditioners will actually recognize the artificial conscience they have created as being an illusion; they will create a false reality and be perfectly convinced that it is true. In other words, they will believe a lie.

Lewis does not insist upon his presumption, however; he states that it is “mere conjecture.”

It is not conjecture (says Lewis) to say that a hope of even a “‘conditioned’ happiness” can rest upon any chance that benevolent impulses may predominate in the Conditioners. There can be no basis for cultivating such impulses without a judgment that benevolence is good, a judgment derived from the Tao. And without such a judgment, motives arise according to chance (meaning Nature) -- “heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas.” The extreme rationalism that comes from “seeing through” all rational motives becomes, in actuality, “wholly irrational behaviour.”

Therefore, Man’s victory over Nature consists of the “whole human race subjected to some individual men,” who are guided, in essence, by none other than irrational impulse. Rather than Man superseding Nature, then, Nature has actually conquered Man -- ruling the Conditioners, and, through them, all humanity. “All Nature’s apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals.”

“[I]f the eugenics are efficient enough there will be no second revolt,” and the Conditioners will rule in this way, ruled by Nature, til the end of life on earth.

I don’t believe this could ever actually happen unless God abandons mankind. I do believe that these tendencies, running rampant among people, could lead to serious damage to the well-being of the human race, however. There are those who feel that no matter what people do, God is in control and will work everything together for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). I believe in this from a spiritual standpoint, yet cannot take it to mean that the rest of us are to stand by and watch this happen.

Lewis attempts to explain exactly what is meant by the term “Nature,” beginning by stating what it is not: “The Natural is the opposite of the Artificial, the Civil, the Human, the Spiritual, and the Supernatural.” He leaves the Artificial out of the picture in portraying what he views as “a rough idea of what men have meant by Nature and what it is they oppose to her.” I find this interesting because I think that in modern times, the Artificial has come to be seen as something both to be opposed and accepted. But that’s for another post.

“Nature seems to be the spatial and temporal, as distinct from what is less fully so or not so at all.” (The naturalistic position, therefore, would be one that does not allow the supernatural any place in its view of reality.) “She seems to be the world of quantity, as against the world of quality; of objects as against consciousness: of the bound, as against the wholly or partially autonomous: of that which knows no values as against that which both has and perceives value: of efficient causes (or, in some modern systems, of no causality of all) as against final causes."

Now, there’s a lot of conceptualization in all of that, for, against, and around which people have examined and dissected and argued up and down and every which way, to the point of folly. I won't pretend to be versed in any of it, nor do I have sufficient background to fully understand what Lewis may be referring to. I would guess, though, that by setting quantity against quality, he is referring to an utilitarian view, and by setting objects against consciousness, he means what I think of as the tangible vs. intangible. “Of the bound, as against the autonomous” I would take to mean the one driven by instinct as opposed to the one who has choice. “Of efficient causes as against final causes” might mean what is expedient vs. long-term effects. (I welcome correction here.) At any rate, Lewis refers to Nature as being that which can be analyzed and then dominated and used for our convenience, having “suspend[ed] our judgments of value about it, ignored[d] its final cause, and treat[ed] it in terms of quantity,” or, to paraphrase, used merely as a tool without regard to any inherent integrity it may have as a thing unto itself.

What Lewis defines as Nature, here, I would define as artificial. But perhaps that is why he disregards the term "artificial" earlier; he is trying to make a distinction between the proper use of something within the Tao and a use of something which makes it a mere object, stripped of its inherent quality and value. He speaks of “repression of elements in what would otherwise be our total reaction to it,” stating that “it is sometimes very noticeable and even painful: something has to be overcome before we can cut up a dead man or a live animal in a dissecting room.” (emphasis added)

This is a very profound observation.

Not to take away from Lewis’ point, allow me a brief aside: I can identify strongly with Lewis’ observation. Growing up, I constantly found myself aware of the tension between the “natural” and the “unnatural” that Lewis refers to. I could not understand how people could have certain attitudes toward certain things or treat certain things certain ways. I assumed that I was just a sensitive idiot and that when I really “grew up” I’d be a lot “tougher.” Well, I’m happy to say that after years of trying to grow up that way and feeling completely untrue to myself, I was able to shake it off. I’ve spent the years since then recovering those sensibilities I had as a child. I’m still working on it :-)

Lewis speaks of the process of losing this sensitivity as that which is to many “simply the gradual discovery that the real world is different from what we expected, and the old opposition to Galileo or to ‘bodysnatchers’ is simply obscurantism.” (As Bishop Spong and his ilk would no doubt attest.)

“But that is not the whole story.”

Stay tuned for the whole story...

*Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Monday, May 09, 2005


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Saturday, May 07, 2005

(Bits and) pieces: family plans

There are a lot of interesting conversations going on in the blogosphere right now (not that that’s anything new...)

Marla’s gone and stirred the pot again with a bold and honest look at the subjects of family planning, SAHMs, and homeschooling (and the Christian peer pressure related to such). A few of my thoughts along with many others are in the comment thread.

Another contributor to that thread, Bob, weighed in with what I think is a very important view regarding adoption. He has a post on it as well.

At Threefold Cord, Holly asks for help understanding just what R. C. Sproul, Jr. is saying about women blogging and teaching. I think Kristen pretty much nails it in the comments thread (and posts on it as well), and Dee O’Neil Andrews has the proper response!

HT: Molly at My Three Pennies’ Worth


Parableman links to the Dane (scroll down for the rest of the Episodes) and tips his hat to Jollyblogger in a post referencing bad arguments against public schooling.


Rusty at New Covenant writes a review of Suzanne Venker’s book, 7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don't Mix. I haven’t read the book but think I would find it very encouraging. Rusty's summary of Venker’s points:
She presents three basic arguments first claiming that while the choice to bring children into the world is an inherent right, choosing to do so without the intent to raise them is not. Secondly, she claims that if motherhood were viewed as a full-time job it would not be considered something that can be done on the side. Lastly, she argues that those who get paid to watch other people's children (e.g., daycare) are, in fact, doing the actual job of raising other people's children.

My thoughts exactly.

Rusty nails it (oops) with this comment:
More to the point, though, is the fact that the full-time mother, regardless of whether or not she is engaged in art projects all day every day with her kids, is the one who gets to impact their character formation. Despite the obvious nature of this point, it is lost on those who have bought in to the "I could never stay at home full-time" myth. (emphasis added)

Yes! There are, however, those who feel that full-time motherhood equates with “overcontrolling” motherhood. You’ve got to be kidding me...raising one’s own children is “overcontrolling?!”

Another very important statement from Venker’s book:
Children do not raise themselves, and they do not "thrive" in day care. They just get used to it. Children will get used to anything we ask them to; this is why our power is so frightening. And it is the reason we have a responsibility not to ask our children to get used to anyone but us. (emphasis added)

This is absolutely true, especially the part I emphasized. I think of this even with the choices I make as a 98% stay-at-home mom. I dare to say that even the SAHM can neglect her children. (But, please, don’t anyone jump on that and make it into something I didn't say!)

It’s also about relationship. There’s that word again...but it’s what life is all about. What kind of relationship do we want to have with our children, and how can it best be fostered? By spending limited time with them when they’re young? I don’t think so.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

White daffodils

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the photographer, gettin' the shots

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I don't care

about all the dust and cobwebs in my house. About the stuff all over the place. About so much stuff all over the place. About the fact that our house needs some serious updating (well – maybe I do care about that :-) ).

That is, until I start thinking about what other people might think. Then, I become stricken, and obsessed. I dash about, madly picking up toys that will only be gotten back out in minutes. I wipe down cabinets and vacuum behind the furniture. I stuff papers into the already-overflowing trash can. I wash dishes only to realize that the other side of the sink is filling up as quickly as I can empty it. (The same thing happens with the hamper, the washing machine, and the trash can.) I sweep up crumbs as new ones fall.* I wipe off the table only to have someone smear something else on it again (or spill juice, or dump the sugar bowl, or the salt, or what they came in the door with -- the kitchen is next to the entrance) the next minute.

OK, maybe I exaggerate (not much), but I realize that even if I were to clean and organize non-stop for the next 168 hours, I still wouldn’t get this place straightened out or shined up. For long, anyway.

And should I?

I get comfortable here at home (relatively), only to blanch, aghast, upon entering some other family's immaculate, beautiful, tastefully-furnished-and-decorated abode. Suddenly I am stricken by guilt and condemnation worthy of a vandal. "How do they do keep it looking like this??" I wonder.

I suppose I could keep the house picked up, but then I’d never do anything with my kids, let alone try to educate them. I could better organize all my books and papers, but then I’d practice my trumpet even less than I do now. I could keep my closets cleaned out, but then I’d actually be able to find things! But I wouldn’t be able to teach private music lessons. I wouldn’t be able to do things for our church. I wouldn’t be able to take my kids to their myriad practices and lessons.** (Which kills when there’s no family in town to help!) I wouldn’t be able to blog :-)

It’s all a trade-off. Who really cares how my house looks, anyway? It’s not a disaster, really. I keep things clean that really need to be clean. I vacuum often. All the major appliances work. We have all the modern indoor conveniences and comforts. Things run relatively smoothly. So what if the linoleum is 40 years old, the walls need new paint, and my furniture looks like it came from Scratch-n-Dent? At least my curtains are nice!

I can reasonably spruce up for guests. But I’m not entering any domestic photo contests. I believe that houses are meant to be lived in. I believe that my family and my other activities are more important than my house.

When I see the far end of the kitchen table piled high with my son’s craft projects, I rejoice that he loves to make things, and that he’d rather work in a more central area than at the work area we made for him in an out-of-the-way place. I rejoice that I and the members of my family have many talents and interests and the wherewithal to develop and share them. I rejoice that we have a large house in which to do this. (For instance, I can practice when everyone else is in bed because of the layout of our house). I rejoice that we can learn together at home, and that I have sufficient storage for all of our books and materials! The list could go on.

(I only wish I’d gotten over my not-so-spotless-house-phobia sooner...)

*Where does all the dirt come from, anyway? Especially in the winter, when we’re holed up? There must be a domestic “dirt cycle,” like the water cycle...

**the lessons and practices fulfill requirements for our homeschooling, offer an outlet for recreation, and provide social opportunities. We don’t just drop the kids off, either; I or my husband stay with them at least 75% of the time.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Benjamin Franklin's education

He entered grammar school at age eight, left to attend a "school for writing and arithmetic" at age nine, went to work in his father’s tallow-chandlery at age ten, and was apprenticed at age twelve to his brother James, a printer.

So...with little formal education, just how did Ben Franklin accomplish so much?

From his autobiography:
My early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read)...

From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.

Of his father, he wrote:
At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life

On the pursuit of knowledge and writing:
There was another bookish lad in the town [Boston], John Collins by name, with whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond we were of argument, and very desirous of confuting one another...A question was once, somehow or other, started between Collins and me...As we parted without settling the point, and were not to see one another again for some time, I sat down to put my arguments in writing, which I copied fair and sent to him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters of a side had passed, when my father happened to find my papers and read them.

His father critiqued his writing:
Without entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writing; observed that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I ow'd to the printing-house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the justice of his remark, and thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to endeavor at improvement.(emphasis added)

He did so by reading good writing and then seeking to imitate it via various exercises. Judging that on occasion he actually bettered it
encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious.(emphasis added)

Apprenticeship no doubt offered much in the way of education also. I guess we call it “mentoring” today, or “climbing the professional ladder.”

Franklin wrote of his faith in God (regardless of questionable theology or moral flaws he may have had):

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them success. My belief of this induces me to hope, though I must not presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised toward me, in continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse, which I may experience as others have done: the complexion of my future fortune being known to Him only in whose power it is to bless to us even our afflictions.

Bits and pieces, 5/03/05

Registration is open for the GodBlogCon (since April 15th). Register soon, as space is limited to 300. Registrants must have a blog url until May 15th. Please see the GBC website for more information .

John Schroeder is back in the saddle at the GBC prayer blog and continues to do an excellent job. His substantial entries are of use even beyond the GBC. I liked last Friday’s especially; he recommends prayer for relief of fears.

It’s nice to be reminded I’m probably not the only one who has them :-)


From the cover of The Book Peddler’s catalog:
It is better to build children than to repair men.

I am keenly aware of this, but not sure if this makes me a better mother or a more anxious one!


I’ve read and appreciated comments by a gentleman named Macht on many of the blogs I read, but am ashamed to say I never clicked over to his blog, Prosthesis (what a name!) until recently. Man, I like this guy!


My son is supposed to be doing a research paper (assisted by me, of course) as a "language-arts" assignment. I think we’d both rather be pulling teeth. He started out researching while-tailed deer with the question, “Are white-tailed deer friendly to other animals?” but this didn't work out so well :o. So, inspired by a recent news story, he might try a new topic:

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zebra hybrids



“For two teens left adrift on a sailboat for six days, prayer and improvised survival tactics kept the best friends alive.” from


I pray for their speedy recovery.


Winter just won’t give up. It’s May, for crying out loud! Yesterday there were sporadic episodes of snow and “sneet” (sort of snowy sleet) all day long. My son was very disappointed to have his season-opening Little League game cancelled for the second time.

Looking out the window, I see flurries still coming...(sigh)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Fortress in the sky

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Up against a brick wall

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