Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snatch From His Hand the Balance and the Rod,

I'm introducing a poem written by Jonathan Ashbach, inspired by Milton, with a segment of Alexander Pope's Essay on Man. Cause I feel like it.

Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence;
Call imperfection what thou fanciest such;
Say, here he gives too little, there too much;
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
Yet cry, if man's unhappy, God's unjust;
If man alone engross not Heav'n's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there:
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the god of God.
In pride, in reas'ning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies!
Pride still is aiming at the bless'd abodes,
Men would be Angels, Angels would be Gods.
Aspiring to be Gods if Angels fell,
Aspiring to be Angels men rebel...

by Jonathan Ashbach

Ten thousand angry hosts of hosts
Sure ranks of vicious peers
The shining angel compass round
Encroaching on him while the sound
Of heav’nly arrows raging round
Comes winging to his ears.

His brothers on him press all in,
The tarnished angels hurry near
And thunders to and fro are thrown
And swords of heaven meet his own
While horns as old as God are blown
Yet none of them he fears.

Yet suddenly the tumult stills;
The violent host is awed.
The thronging armies all give way
And yet they yield not him the day,
For on is coming, so they say,
Their captain and their god.

Dread liege of darkness great
Lord Lucifer the proud
Advances ‘mongst his serried friends.
Dark is his face; dark are his ends
And evil are the words he sends
While shouts he thus aloud.

“Dost thou alone, poor Abdiel
Dost thou alone remain?
True to the hea’nly potentate
Who gives us being, makes us great
And makes us serve with sugared hate
To luminate his reign?

“Thou fool,” cried Satan “Fool to stand,
Against thy brothers gathered here
Who shake their fists at tyranny
And rise aloft, nor bend the knee.
But serve thy master! art thou free?
Should slavery endure?

“For freedom shouldst thou give thy strength,
Not serve the master’s law.
One third of heaven claims its right;
The others soon will join our fight
And make the great king feel our might
And taste our puissance raw!

“No more shall we the Tyrant serve
Nor yet the Tyrant’s son.
But each in heav’n shall have a say
By our joint counsel make our way
And all made equal, thus today
My kingdom is begun!

“My seat shall be the utmost north
Above the stars of God.
The congregation has begun
To worship me, the morning’s son
Who gives them freedom from the One
Who wrests from us our laud!”

Thus spake the Seraph, haughty, proud
As seated on a throne
And his hosts gan roar and cry aloud
And down before him they all bowed
And Satan, worshiped by the crowd
Named Abdiel his own.

Not flinched mighty Abdiel,
But met the traitor’s eye
And stood celestial, silent power
Met Satan’s gaze by hour and hour
Until the prince did shake and cower
Beneath the azure sky.

Then answered mighty Abdiel
And he leaned upon his sword
Which flashed like lightening near and far
That the rebels gathered as for war
Each soon to be a fallen star
Might tremble at his word.

“Cursed be thou, once lord of light
Who stood before the Father’s throne
And falsely praised the tripart name,
That name above each earthly name
Proclaimed its everlasting fame
Of which thou now dost moan.

“Thou prince of heaven were, might be,
Yet to be rebel, traitor chose.
For God would have thee as a son
Yet thou wouldst be the only one,
Wouldst see the will of God undone
Lest primacy you loose.

“You see the glory of our God
Yet worship not the same,
But covet God’s eternal right
And think to try the maker’s might
Who gives you being by his light
Sustains you by His name.

How can you ask what right has right?
How try your strength on God?
Will you master his infinity?
Make the maker bend to you on knee?
Tame him whose slightest work you be?
Break the world-dashing rod?

“Thus hear the doom of heaven sure:
Your wish th’Almighty fills.
Thou art the crown, the cornerstone
The king eternal on thy throne.
None equal thee; thou art alone
Your place is that you will.

Yet God is good, and God alone
And you, without Him must,
A lord of heaven cease to be
Nor heaven’s good may build, may see
By your free will, good is to thee
As evil is to us.

“The chains you broke were chains of God
Full light; not willful bound.
From service to good thou hast been set free;
From the path of right he has given thee
Your choice of faith or liberty
And the morning star fell down.

“Your throne is pinnacled on ill;
You kingdom is corrupt.
Cast down from heaven into hell
By your own magic, your own spell
You’ll drink the dregs of your own well
With which you’ve filled your cup.

Then know your maker, know his wrath;
When the Day of Judgment comes!
God sees your heart; he knows your thought;
For Heaven’s books your name he blots.
What is not good shall soon be naught.
Go, then, to your new home!”

Thus spoke the seraph, and he turned
And strode swift from their seat.
None dared oppose him, blocked his path
But sat amazed, awaiting wrath.
Yet none returned, nor ever hath
And God hurled them forth to the deep.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

For of the Bailey

Rumpole was.

A delightful quote from John Mortimer's (who is a British author comparable to a slightly more serious and less talented Wodehouse) "Rumpole of the Bailey" shall follow, but first, a bit of background. Rumpole is a short, fat, brilliant barrister (lawyer, to a Brit) who chain smokes cigars, quotes poetry (especially Wordsworth), swills claret, never pleads guilty and never prosecutes--and never asks if his client is guilty, lest they say yes. He is as cynical, jovial and witty a character as you could hope to meet. He also refers to his wife as "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

While standing before a judge in a libel suit, he is cross-examining a smarmy female author of romantic historical fiction of the most sappy and sentimental type. He has already mentioned that the hardest part of preparing for his case was having to read through--rather, endure--some of her books, and he has commented to a friend of his that it is simply inconceivable for someone who writes such terrible prose not to have some other serious faults, so we can understand what type of author this is.

Anyway, he asks the judge, a major fan of Ms. Nettleship, our authoress, for permission to read a section from one of her books. The judge, delighted, settles back and says, "Oh, yes. Isn't that the one that ends happily?" To which Rumpole responds, "Happily all Ms. Nettleship's books end... eventually."

In another story, he is defending a liberal minister from an adultery charge (he was innocent), and meets the loud, ill behaved and extremely combative children--they are always attacking each other with whatever weapons lie to hand--of said minister. What are their names? Martin and Erasmus.

I like Rumpole.

Monday, December 13, 2010

We Should Not Give Our Sons a Stone

To A Thousand GenerationsTo A Thousand Generations by Douglas Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is essential. God says "suffer the little children to come unto me," and we say "as soon as they make a confession of faith." God says, "unless ye become as little children," and we say, "unless you little children become like adults..." Again and again we turn the Gospel on its head, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in our covenantal unfaithfulness. We rail against the new Molech embodied in the abomination of abortion, even as we Spiritually starve our own children. This book is an essential read for any Christian who has or may have children.

No, baptism does not de facto save. No, it does not remove parental obligation: on the contrary, it increases it. But neither does our sinful lack of faith abrogate the eternal promises of God, the promises that we refuse to accept.

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I Always Knew Jacoby was a Welsh Name

A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother CadfaelA Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The origins of Cadfael should take a bit more telling. Very short, very quick reads: you barely begin and you're on the next story, so they're neither memorable nor all that interesting. But, they are short, which at times is good. I spent a total of one half hour on all three stories, so if you're looking for a half hour read and don't feel like descending to the waiting room magazines explaining why the world is ending tomorrow because of the fundamentalist nutjobs like me, this is your book.

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From the Father of Bertram

Psmith in the City (Psmith, #2)Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More Wodehousian fun. My current favorite character, the debonair, erudite, garrulous socialist Psmith (the P is silent) ends up "working" in a bank. Absolutely delightful.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

For Guthrum was a Dread King,

Like death out of the North.

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the GreatThe White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin R. Merkle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was great. I had to return to it after I created some distance twixt it and Wodehouse (lest I judge with weighted scales), and I loved it. A solid, sober (but not at all boring) account of The Great Alfred. Very informative, very thoroughly researched (we can catch a glimpse of this from the smatterings of Anglo-Saxon that he sows), and it moves like a freight train. A very worthwhile book, and an essential book for any student of English history.

Though, I must confess, my favorite section was the great display of Viking wisdom as they sacked "Rome".

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not Anti-Blake, but Sounds Like it

The Great DivorceThe Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having re-read this, I cannot wait for the movie (N.D. Wilson is writing the screenplay or something like that). And George MacDonald!!! Yes! Referred to simply as "the teacher" in many places, the noble Scotsman permeates the second half of the book.

Tragic, lovely, heartbreaking and glorious, this book is a theological treatise on the afterlife in the way that Chesterton's Orthodoxy is a description of the Roman Catholic Church, which is to say, not even remotely. It is rather more like a semi-whimsical view of sin and its long-term effects: a tour of heaven made by the citizens of hell/purgatory (which Lewis brilliantly places in a tiny crack in the ground of heaven).

My favorite theme in this book is that of the ethereal verse solid, though it drove me to distraction the first time I heard it, as I'd spent a solid six months working out the exact same theory. In a nutshell: we tend to view God and all things Spiritual as ghostlike, and therefore unnoticeable to us. It would be more accurate to reverse that, to view God as the mountain that we break upon as a mist.

Magnificent book. A must read.

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Not to be Confused With Wormtongue...

The Screwtape Letters (Paperback)The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How does one review this book? It is simply one that a person must read. And please don't be stupid about it ("he believes that there's a demon assigned to everyone! Heresy!!!"). If you're reading this book like that, please don't read Pilgrim's Progress. Or any poetry. Actually, just stick with the World Book Encyclopedia and Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of Every Language Known to Civilized Man and the French.

It is a magnificent book, and loaded with commonplaces and Spiritual insights.

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His Prose be Not of Ruth

The Discovery of Genesis: How the Truths of Genesis Were Found Hidden in the Chinese LanguageThe Discovery of Genesis: How the Truths of Genesis Were Found Hidden in the Chinese Language by C.H. Kang

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this, I felt like I was watching a "doctor" named Bubba offering to start an epidural with his chainsaw. There was absolutely fascinating material that was good enough to make the rest of the book worth it, but then there was other material. The author--and this was simply tragic--offered opinions that were his very own. I honestly don't know if he could have destroyed his ethos more if he claimed to be the reincarnation of Jerry Garcia. Adam and Eve apparently were covered in an imitation of God's Glory Cloud, complete with glowing flames, and this disappeared when, as a terrible surprise to God, Eve disobeyed. Adam nobly followed along out of his undying love for his bride--not because he was too lazy to do anything while he was there with her (a fact that went right over our illustrious author's head), nor because Eve was the world's first guinea pig--no, it was a noble action. To make matters even worse, he helpfully fills out Scripture wherever he feels that God forgot to make a necessary entry.

However, the sheer quality of the material did almost make up for that. I got to the point where I skimmed the prose to minimize rage (if someone's going to say something really stupid in a book, they ought to have the decency to make the book large enough to be worth beating your head against) until I hit parts that involved Chinese characters.

The thesis of this book is that whoever compiled the pictographic language of (primarily Mandarin) Chinese had knowledge of the Genesis account, and embedded it into the language. The evidence for this is primarily found in which radicals, which are the building blocks of the Mandarin language that have a distinct meaning of their own, in which radicals are combined to make another word. For example: the word "covet" is comprised of the radical that signifies a woman combined with two of the radicals that mean tree. So, when someone writes covet in Mandarin, they put a woman and two trees together. And there are many, many astonishing examples of this, though not nearly so many as our author thinks there are. He's got a hammer, and everything begins to bear an uncanny resemblance to the head of a nail.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Charles in Barge (Or a Bright Pink Viking Ship)

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I quite enjoyed it: a nice, clear list of "villains," though why Charlie is the hero is almost a bit ambiguous; the difference is his politeness, his obedience, and it one case, his honesty. Good for a family read when kids are young.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Here be Dragons

Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading ScriptureDeep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture by Peter J. Leithart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With his usual erudition and clarity, Leithart first illuminates problems we were unaware of then solves them, all with so slight an effort and so almost offhanded a manner that it is impossible not to be swept at least a little bit down the current of his thought. And why would one try to resist?

This book is magnificent. It largely focuses on the ninth chapter of John, the healing of the blind man (the one who is sent to Siloam with clay on his eyes). Leithart then begins to unfold it, layer by layer, meaning by meaning, interpretation by interpretation, providing a solid year's worth of sermons to any desperate preacher. Most of the time, he does not so much enter the room as demonstrate that there is a justifiable door to be opened. Van Till stated that Scripture is absolutely authoritative with regard to everything it addresses, and that it addresses absolutely everything. Leithart's interpretations are the beginning of a demonstration of that. We are pulled from Genesis through to Revelation, and all of it the great Totus Christus: what it means in the abstract and how it affects us, the body. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our Wills and Fates Do So Contrary Run...

Had I simply refrained from seeking counsel, I could have started a cult by now. At least I know better than to make the same mistake twice: next time, I publish first, and apply a liberal dose of Alexander Pope to the critics ("damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, and, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer. Willing to wound and yet afraid to strike, just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike").

Below is the sarcophagus in which I have laid the remains of him who once laid low the nations, the great argument I was working on.

Our verse for dissection today, familiar and favorite of every teenager on the planet, is the fourth verse of the last chapter of the glorious book of Ephesians, which in the KJV reads "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." In the Greek, "Καὶ οἱ πατέρες, μὴ παροργίζετε τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀλλὰ ἐκτρέφετε αὐτὰ ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ κυρίου." Pay especial attention to the fourth word from the end: παιδεια, hereafter simply "paideia" to save me clicking that little flag too many times. It simply means tutelage, with an implication of discipline.

Here is my thesis in a sentence: the wrath spoken of in the first half of the verse should be understood as the wrath of God.

My reasons for this are fairly simple. To begin with, there is the problem with how we typically interpret this verse, the "don't make your kids mad" approach. Even Mennonites, who diligently discipline and spank their children beginning in the first trimester, often exasperate their children. Every godly parent has to deal with furious two year-olds who find their otherwise intelligent parents inexplicably immune to flawless logic ("I want it." "You can't have it." "But I want it..."), and what parent, raising their child to love and serve God would honestly say that they have never made their child mad?

How then can we contrast making your child mad with raising them in the paideia of God? The latter does not exclude the former, it necessarily includes it. If the contrasting of the first and second half of the verse ("do not make your child angry, but rather...") does not work, then our interpretation of either the first half or second half must be in error. Otherwise, we accuse Paul of saying something along the lines of "do not go outside in the rain, but rather go outside when it's wet." The two are by no means mutually exclusive.

The only ambiguity in the verse appears in the first half, and is not at first glance obvious: "do not provoke your children to wrath..." The ambiguity lies in the fact that the indirect object, wrath, is not specifically possessed. Our assumption of it being the children's wrath is entirely due to their mutual proximity in the verse, as well as a lack of other potential owners.

However, there is a simple solution: could not the wrath belong to God as an understood possessor? He is, after all, the owner of the paideia in the second half of the sentence, and we do this type of thing (same subject for multiple objects) on a regular basis. Also, in context, it agrees with the rest of Scripture: simply read Proverbs for a Biblical view of a parent's responsibility regarding their children. The foolish child brings shame to his parents.

The other options I have found to be either weak or to do more violence to the text than this one does. You either have to import something into the sentence that simply is not there, or imply a great deal that is not implied on the first reading. This interpretation simply applies the explicit ownership (paideia of God) in the second half of the sentence to the first half of the sentence, and only does that because without that, the sentence does not make sense.

That was the interpretation I was working on. It was, however, quite neatly dismantled by Mike Lawyer's offhand comment: "parallel passage." Oopsie. So, I am a somewhat sadder, but greatly(?) wiser Jesse: I've now read Colossians.

Blessings all: I'll post new heresies as I invent them.

Jesse B

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Downside of Up

Is that when you're really high up, most other things are down. Even things that would normally be up. And, having just finished (for the seventh time, third for the series) Dorothy Dunnett's Checkmate, I am roughly astral. It has taken its place on my shelf next to Tolkien. Save Tolkien, I have never read a more devastating, lovely ending, and I have never seen so much tension built so skillfully, and relieved with such a shattering release. If the next month of books get poor reviews, take them with a grain of salt: I'm still descending.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Eternal Optimism of the Open Mind

Anybody who thinks that you can give the FDA complete control over what you can put in your mouth, and not set up a bidding war in the food industry as a consequence, is a person who probably has a very sunny disposition, and who is routinely surprised at what people do to him. Every morning is a new day.

--Doug Wilson, Blog and Mablog
"Surly Almost"

"Looking Like a Virgin on the Lip of a Volcano..."

The Trials of RumpoleThe Trials of Rumpole by John Mortimer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just another great read from Mortimer: though not on par with Wodehouse, he often has simply delightful turns of phrase: "but in the courtroom he has the confidence of a rather reclusive hare looking into the headlights of an oncoming car," or "she engaged in an extremely dangerous diet consisting of organic vegetation and ice water." He reminds me, in a way, of an almost Chestertonian figure: fat, jolly (usually), delights in food and alcohol, cigars and poetry, witty and could politely peel you like a banana in an argument. Highly recommended.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Cartleginians

Alexander the GreatAlexander the Great by Paul Anthony Cartledge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a request to make. Could all of you "scientifically respectable" authors who decide to, for the sake of being on the cutting edge of whatever you're writing about, just make a statement in the beginning of your book. The statement should be along the lines of "Just to let my readers know, I hate God, and I don't believe in Him, so all dates will be marked as 'Before Common Era' and 'Common Era.' Just so you know." And how is replacing the Latin "anno domini" with the English "common era" more politically correct? We can't have God in there anywhere, but we have no problem replacing him with America? This bugs me. I think any author that does this should be required by law to only order "Freedom Fries" at any restaurant that serves them, just to be consistent.

But the book was good, about Alexander, the Great Alexander the Second, son of Philip of Macedon. Worth reading.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

If the Category is Small Enough

You're always first.

Thank you C. J. Mahaney: click on my title for a link to what I shall without hesitation call the best rap song regarding the Heidelberg Catechism that I have ever heard.

When Church Starts With This Prayer

And the rest is by no means downhill, indeed, you have communion following an election exhortation by Doug Wilson and a Reformational sermon by Peter Leithart, all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. What a glorious Lord's Day!


Pastoral Prayer for Reformation Sunday and All Saints' Day
Almighty God, Father, Son, and Spirit, Creator of the heavens and the earth, You spoke this universe by the Word of Your power, and You continually uphold it all by that same Word, and by the mighty working of Your Spirit.

And therefore we praise You and we worship You, as the only God, the only true God. You are Holy and Mighty and Gracious and Just and all Glorious. And we know this because this world and its story is full of Your glory. You framed the heavens and the earth and filled them with treasures, and when we disdained that gift and reached for our own glory, You sent us out into the world. But your grace has followed us down through the ages. And in the seed of the woman you have told and are telling an amazing story.

We give you thanks for righteous Abel who offered worship to you in faith though His brother hated him and spilled his blood on the earth. We praise you for faithful Enoch who walked with you and for Noah who was a preacher of righteousness and the judgment to come. We praise you for Abram who left his father’s house and went to a foreign land on the basis of Your promises. Thank you for the faith of Sarah who laughed when you promised her a son in her old age. Thank you for Rebekah who believed the promise of God and tricked her husband into obeying you. Thank you for the faith of Jacob who blessed his rebellious sons and trusted Your promises despite all appearances. Thank you for Joseph who did not compromise with his master’s wife to stay out of trouble. Thank you for the faith of the midwives who disobeyed the king’s wicked order to kill the Hebrew boys. Thank you for the faithfulness of Moses though Israel was stubborn and hard-hearted. We praise you for Rahab who hid the spies and lied to the soldiers who were looking for them. Thank you for her grace and cunning. Thank you for Joshua who taught the people how to destroy cities with trumpets. And for Gideon who knew that every battle belongs to You. And we worship you for Deborah and Barak and Jael, and we praise you for Sisera’s head crushed by a tent peg. Thank you for David who was a man after Your own heart; thank you for his faith and courage and for his sling and for the songs that he sang. Thank you for Jeremiah and Ezekiel; thank you for Micah and Jonah and Malachi, prophets who declared Your word fearlessly despite the consequences, despite the shame, despite their inadequacies.

Thank you for Matthew who wrote his gospel by faith. Thank you for the Apostle Paul and Timothy and Titus his disciples who were also faithful pastors and evangelists. Thank you for Phoebe who was a faithful servant of Paul and the church in Cenchrea. We don’t know much about her, but she reminds us of how there were so many faithful saints in those early days of the church who suffered and sacrificed and served gladly for the sake of the Kingdom. We thank you for St. Stephen the first Christian martyr who saw our Lord Jesus in the sky and did not flinch when they stoned him to death. Thank you for Ignatius who was devoured by lions because of his love for you. Thank you for Eustachius and Germanicus and Polycarp and Justin and Irenaeus and Hippolitus and Lawrence and Alban and Sebastian, and the countless thousands of others who gave their lives willingly for the sake of Christ, who did not consider their lives more valuable than the salvation You have won for us. We praise you for mothers who watched their children burned at the stake, and we praise you for children who were faithful even to death.

We thank you for Constantine who loved you and ended the persecution of Your people. We thank you for Athanasius and Augustine and Ambrose and Leo and Gregory. Thank you for Boniface and Bede; and for all those nameless scribes who copied out the Scriptures faithfully over the centuries so that we might have them today in our hands. Thank you for Thomas Acquinas and John Huss and Wycliffe and Calvin and Bucer and Luther. And thank you for Luther’s wife, Katie. We praise you for Cranmer and Hooper and Latimer and the many faithful Huguenots who were slaughtered for their love of the cross. We give you thanks for John Bunyan and John Foxe and William Carey and George Whitefield and John Wesley for their faithful proclamations of the gospel. We praise you for Hudson Taylor, Gresham Machen, Jim Eliot, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Alexander Schmemann, Bessie Wilson, and Betty Appel.

We praise you for all Christian wives and mothers who have offered their daily labors to their husbands and children with cheerful love of Christ. Thank you for how they have given of themselves in so many small ways rising early, staying up late, making meals, doing laundry, teaching lessons, disciplining, and loving, pouring themselves out, serving gladly, offering their bodies as living sacrifices to you. And we bless them now before Your throne and we give you thanks and praise for them. Thank you for faithful children down through the ages who image what we must become to enter the Kingdom. Thank you for peanut butter and jelly smears on their faces. Thank you for their prayers and their lessons. Thank you for their exuberance. Thank you for the gift of faith you have bestowed upon them. And thank you for the millions of little ones that we have not yet met but who rejoice around Your throne in glory. Thank you for the poor, the sick, the outcasts, the mentally and physically disabled. We thank you for your people who make us laugh, thank you for those who tell stories, thank you for those who remember and help us remember. Thank you for all honorable occupations. Thank you for hard, honest work. Thank you for secretaries and auto mechanics, thank you for writers and missionaries, thank you for doctors and nurses and accountants and artists. Thank you for teachers and deacons, thank you for coaches and architects and pilots and janitors and senators. We praise you for your people in China and Russia and Egypt and Ivory Coast and Columbia and Mexico and Finland and Italy and France and Iraq and Afghanistan and Myanmar. We thank you and we praise you for all your saints, all your faithful down through the centuries, and we praise you for those who are still yet to come, that innumerable company of saints yet to play their part on the stage. We thank you that in the gift of the Spirit you have rushed us up into the heavenly places and that by Your mighty working we are united to all your saints throughout time and space and that in a mystery we are bound together in Christ.

Our gracious God and Father, we are undone by your goodness, we are glad, and we are deeply grateful to you. But we are most deeply thankful for our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Holy One of Israel, the One who has been anointed with the fullness of Your Holy Spirit, the One in Whom all saints find their rest. We praise you for our Lord Jesus Christ who is the only begotten Son of God and who is the seed of the woman come to crush the serpent’s head. And we give thanks to You for all Your people chiefly because in them we have seen Christ manifested. For You have poured out His Spirit on all flesh, and You have begun to remake this world by Your wonderful grace and love.

And so we worship You now, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for You are worthy of all glory and praise, unto ages of ages. Amen!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guilty By Reason of Insanity

"After a minute or two I again started to rise. 'Don't worry, Marie. I'll be back. We'll have plenty of time to talk,' I reassured her.

Marie continued to stare at me, but was having trouble speaking. Her eyes, peering out through their monstrous frames, grew larger, as if they were trying to express what her lips could not. Once more, in soft, pleading tones, Marie repeated, 'Don't go. There's something I have to tell you.'

I remained in my seat and waited... A minute. Two minutes. Three minutes went by. I snuck a look at my watch. It was well past five and the investigator was waiting...

I rose. 'Don't worry, Marie, I'll be back soon...' I picked up my papers and walked to the door, turning my back on Marie. I placed my hand on the door-knob and started to turn it.

Suddenly from behind me came a voice the timbre of which I shall never forget. It was deep. It was male. And it had the menacing quality of a lion about to strike. Low, guttural came the familiar words, 'Don't go. There's something I have to tell you.' I could not move, even to turn around. My hand was fixed to the doorknob, but I could feel the fine hairs on my arms rise, and I shivered. Then slowly, so as not to ruffle the beast behind me, I turned and stared."

Wow. Another one of those books whose subject matter makes up for any defects in writing. The prose is quite readable, if nothing to write home about, but I found myself gripped as if by Gladwell the entire time I was reading this tremendous, horrific book.

First, a few cautions: there is cussing, as there are a number of actual interviews transcribed. The worldview is overly modern: there appears to be no such thing as an actual villain, except those that damaged the poor murderers. Had they been her subjects, I'm sure she would have found out what damaged them, and she would have been equally correct. But this mentality that is willing to condemn no one actually condemns everyone: had the abusers of the abusive parents been condemned, the parents would have been spared, and by extension, the killers themselves, and at the far end, their victims. With the killers condemned, the chain is broken at whatever link is given to us to find, and I will apologetically say that at least more potential victims are spared, though I know that this is no consolation to the link of the chain waiting on death row. True justice will be done at the very end. We who condemn them here must say that "there, but for the grace of God..." And, condemn them we must.

Dr. Lewis was one of a team of two doctors that interviewed a number of death row inmates as a result of their work with juvenile delinquents. Her findings are simply appalling. How much damage can one person suffer before being shattered beyond repair, even perhaps beyond culpability? At what point does the victim become the villain? And how many fathers will be judged guilty for the murders that their sons committed? Is there a point at which a human nature is so warped by abuse that its perpetuation of it is simply a foregone conclusion? And if so, to what extent should they be held accountable?

Forgive my apparent irreverence, but the God that told the cripple to pick up his bed and walk also put him on that bed in the first place. And there were many cripples who received no miraculous healing. Is it true that God makes men cripples and bids them walk? Yes. But He alone knows how to judge actions in light of circumstances; He alone knows the intricacies of cause and effect with regard to the human mind and soul.

This exploration of the minds of killers--those who have raped nuns, tortured and murdered girls barely in their teens, even killed apparently for the sheer pleasure of killing--destroyed any idea that I had regarding a simple, straight-forward culpability. I think God's declaration "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" would often be an act of mercy for the killer, as well as for the family of the victim and any future victim that may have been. The torture endured by these killers is staggering. I have heard of torture, but had never seen so direct a correlation between the desolate capacity of humans for cruelty and the sheer level of destruction and death that results from it.

Now, as to the primary topic of the book, and my chief interest in it.

Those of you who know my dad know that he is both one of the sweetest and scariest men out there, and, incongruous as these may seem, they dwell fully within the same man. How if they were magnified? Multiplied, even? Would they reach a point where the violence that can both endure and engender the extremes of cruelty in this world and the kindness that would alleviate them with bleeding hands would finally be irreconcilable, would finally tear away from each other, each taking portions of the man with them? This seems to have been the case with many, many of these killers; this seems to be the foundation of what is known as Multiple Personality Disorder (also more recently called Dissociative Identity Disorder): the "host," unable to cope with the sheer horror of his life, withdraws, and "alters," aspects of the host's personality--often violence and toughness--magnified into actual, individual people appear. People with different names, values, expressions, voices (including accents and vocabularies), interests, genders, diseases (such as diabetes), memories and visual acuity: people who can "take the pain" that their often despised host couldn't, people who hate the other alters sharing the host's body, people that are confident of their survival regardless of the death of the host, people that are, in one appalling instance, even willing to receive the lethal injection in the host's place, to protect him. After all, she knew that he (the host) wasn't the one who had committed the crime. She knew who had. Truly separate, distinct, individual people. The body and the brain are the only things shared.

Dr. Lewis' point in all of this is obviously the exculpation of her patients. And one cannot help but sympathize with her, though I must apologetically disagree. It is a shattering book. Horrifically informative, and very much worth the read.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Fondness For Sedley

The Black ArrowThe Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, the great fun of fiction. This was just a great read, though I felt a bit like I was taking a compressed and selective course of Great British Isles Poets. We had cross dressing heroines falling in love with their oblivious male companions ("Go then and take her. But henceforth direct thy feet where thou and I may never meet," or, "Is that the meaning of accost?" Or even, "Dost thou live by thy music?" "No sir, I live by the church." "Art thou a churchman?" "No such matter sir; I do live by the church, for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church."). Then we have the heroes dressing up as friars (if anyone speaks to you, just say "Pax vobiscum," cross them and keep walking), the vilification of the ever-vilified Richard Crookback, and on and on. But it was so much fun! "Well, I suppose that marriage is like death, and comes to all men."

Truly, a delightful read. Light, fun, historically inaccurate but in a way not easily noticed. Just an all-around great time. Highly recommended.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Bad Monster

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was unsure about it at first, but it has definitely grown on me. Coming from the far side of the genre, it's chief problem is the predictability: I know how it ends, and the getting there isn't that big of a surprise.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is that, in a sense, it's the Napoleon Dynamite of Vampire (hear me out on this). Napoleon Dynamite gave the lie to the ten-thousand movies that worshiped the Prom God: you're a dork and your life is hell, but then you win the prom and the guy likes you and you get a scholarship and all ends happily, right? In Napoleon Dynamite, they won the prom, and nothing changed. They were still morons. Well, in all the modern teeny-bopper "vampyre" stories, the vampires (or at least some of them) are the heroes, the misunderstood homicidal psychopaths. Their parents just didn't love them enough, and nobody understands them. They're sexy and desirable and dangerous and mysterious, basically everything that no intelligent girl with a halfway decent father should want (which is probably why they're selling so well: we have crappy absentee dads raising stupid, self-immolating daughters). Well, Bram Stoker's Dracula? Not so much. He's dangerous and diabolical, a demon in human shape. He's the actual villain--seriously--the monster is the bad guy. I never would have thought of that. He takes the vile child-slaughtering demon, and actually vilifies him. Poor, misunderstood little monster. Of course, this was written in 1897 and was still widely read in 1997 and may yet be in 2097, whereas Stephanie Meyer will be largely lost by 2057--just a few single moms setting their own daughters on the path to seek out that dangerous lover.

One of the more fascinating things about the book is the way that he avoids (or at least minimizes) the whole "he said" at the end of every line of dialogue: the entire thing is either letters or diary entries. The entire thing. It's really kind of brilliant, and actually works really well, due to the dramatic flair that some of his character's have. It also seems that it would make it a good deal more difficult, as every couple chapters you have to have a different character telling the story, so you have to put an entirely different emotional spin on each of the events, etc. But, he pulls it off quite well.

A good read so far, and I expect to enjoy the end.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

John 1 Shall be Continued

I have not forgotten to continue in John 1, I'm just a bit slow in grasping the importance of the next section. I'll state my questions, and perhaps my readers shall proffer opinions (ideally helpful ones: please refrain from criticizing my parent's failings in the contraceptive department; they knew not who they spawned).

Not surprisingly, John 1:35-51 is a chiasm. However, there is an absolutely fascinating shift that takes place between the first half (preceding John 1:43 "follow me", which I hold to be the chiastic center) and the second, and I don't yet understand what John is telling us with it.

1. The most notable shift is in the language: in the first half he translates both "Rabbi" and "Messiah" from the Hebrew into Greek, but in the second half, he doesn't bother: he simply leaves them in Hebrew, and they are from this point assimilated into the Greek vocabulary.

2. Also, he translates Simon Peter's name in the first half: Σιμον becomes Κεφας, which means Πετρος: (Simon, Cephas, Petros), but in the second Simon and Cephas simply disappear, and we are left with the translation of Cephas from Hebrew into Greek: Peter. This is another pregnant ("is that the word I'm looking for, Jeeves?" "Yes, sir.") shift. And, I think it is significant that Christ refers to Peter (in the first half) as Simon the son of Jonah, but I'm already swimming in my time-honored tradition of one nostril above the surface, so I'm not pushing any further: I've got enough that I don't understand already.

My understanding of the significance of this, and my current overall thesis for John chapter one is twofold, and is as follows:

1). John 1 begins in a Jewish perspective, aimed almost solely at the Jews, but... 2). ends in a Jewish/Greek perspective, aimed at the Jews in particular, but also inclusive of the Greek world.

Defense for this thesis:

1.a. The language solidly links John 1 to Genesis 1, as any Jew would know and as no one unfamiliar with the Jewish Scriptures would realize: "εν αρχε εν ο λογος" ("en arche en ha logos:" in the beginning was the word, which is obviously a reference to "בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים" ("bereshit bera elohiym:" in the beginning, created God).
1.b. The order links John to the creation account in Genesis 1, as any Jew would know and as no one unfamiliar with the Jewish Scriptures would realize: God/Word, then God/Light: "וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור" (Said God, let there be light).

2. The shift in the narrative focus from a Jew speaking to an audience of Jews (John 1:1-1:43) to a Greek-friendly narration (John 1:38-51). You will notice the overlap, but I feel that it's accurate.


1. This is obviously extremely rough and oversimplified with an almost blasphemous nescient nonchalance: the entire text is for the entire world. However the author is telling us something important not only with what he says, but also with how he says it.

More posts will follow as I continue to dig; in the meantime, feel free to give me whatever input you like, if you like. At the moment I'm mostly trying to assemble my thoughts cogently, but nothing serves to tighten a shield-wall like a light arrow-fire from the opposition, so please: let them fly.

Jesse Broussard

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ahithophel as Judas, 2 of 2

This post is the (much shorter) second of two, and is simply meant to demonstrate the similarities between Ahithophel and Judas, and their respective betrayals. I was expecting to find more than this, but didn't.

First, the obvious: each betrayed God's anointed king to those who desired his death, and each committed suicide (by hanging) rather than repent and seek mercy. However, each was ultimately foiled. So far as Absalom and the Pharisees: each hated the true king out of jealousy and sought to take his place, and each had grievances against the true king (whether real or imagined).

Well, that's all for now; on to the next question, which I'll invent sometime soon.


Ahithophel and Judas

Ahithophel seems to be--almost--a mixed character. He is wise, which would intimate godly, especially when his counsel is said to be as the very words of God, and his betrayal of David is a just betrayal, if such a thing exists, in light of the offense done to him by David. He is also a parallel to Judas, as will be shown a bit more later on.

To begin with, Uriah was one of David's mighty men, and his wife was Ahithophel's granddaughter (2 Samuel 11:3, 23:24, 23:39, 1 Chronicles 11:41). (On a side note that I may pursue later, the fact that Uriah's home could be seen from the palace suggests that the most loyal/mighty men were given homes surrounding the palace in which the king dwelled, which could possibly mirror the guard of the Tabernacle in which God dwelt, Num. 3:38 among others. And anyone that doesn't immediately embrace this is a heretic.) Due to the wisdom of Ahithophel and the public nature of David's sin (2 Samuel 12:14), there is no conceivable way that Ahithophel was not aware of what David had done, and no doubt had some feelings about it that could be described as "less than ecstatic." His granddaughter's husband, a very prominent, noble and godly man, was murdered, and his granddaughter was getting married to the murderer.

So, when Absalom rebelled, how would that look to a wise man who was well acquainted with the justice of God, and had explicit and personal knowledge of David's gross sin? Obviously, God had judged David unfit to be king, and was replacing him. After all, David's decline, which is brutally marked, began with Bathsheba. He is never again portrayed in a kingly fashion. His weakness is what is noted, his lack of leadership, his lack of strength, his lack of initiative, his lack of knowledge of the affairs of his kingdom, his lack of foresight, even his lack of sexual interest, in bitter irony: through grasping for sex he loses his taste for sex (which is a pattern of God's judgment: we follow an evil desire with an evil action, and God lets us, but our judgment is the natural result of that action). Or, should we wish a less favorable light for Ahithophel, when Absalom rebelled, Ahithophel had the only chance he would ever get for revenge.

In either case, he betrayed David (who had horrifically betrayed him), and aimed to kill him with counsel: blood for blood. As a result of betraying God's anointed, he is overthrown and chooses to kill himself. This draws an illuminating parallel to Judas, which gives us a new angle on the well-known story of Judas' betrayal, as shown in the next post.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

They Seek Him Here...

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by the illustrious Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orczi, no, I'm not joking, read from October 08 to 09, 2010

Very obviously written by a woman, with a hefty dose of the romantically absurd/absurdly romantic (a guy actually kissing the ground that his wife walked on, and the balcony she rested her hand on, stuff like that). Kinda reminded me of the "romantic idealism" of the 18-19th centuries, and as such, was utter tripe. But, if you took it in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, and if you have a dangerously high tolerance for romantic nonsense (hint: if I said, "Cat: f-o-x: cat," and you knew what I was quoting, then this is you. Obviously, it is me, as I can both quote this and watch Pride and Prejudice in a single sitting), then you'll probably enjoy it. I wouldn't spend more than a couple days on it, though.

I've noticed: the ridiculously sappy romantic stories always make better movies than books, as you can't portray all the nonsense driveling out of the lead male characters deep, piercing, sensitive eyes, or how the lead female character is so torn between being stupid or demonstrating that she has a functioning brain cell or two. The Ian McKellan (Chauvlin) and whoever else adaptation of this was more well done and more enjoyable than the book in many ways.

All in all, a fun read, but nothing to write a three-paragraph review about. (less)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thank you Mr. Belloc

A delightful remark from Hillair Belloc while he was moderating a debate twixt Chesterton and Shaw. And yes, I did just use the word twixt. More than that, I said it, though you probably didn't hear me.

"If the League of Nations could make a war it would be the only thing it ever has made."

Maybe I'll Get Posthumously Published...

Not really; I have no great desire to ever be published. It is this type of occasion, however, that convinces me to put down my pen and pick up a book. Another unknown, probably never to be known poet that can produce something of this nature? Maybe I'll start writing prose. Her name is Colleen McGarry, and she has been teaching in Iraq for the last four years. Click on my title for a link to the poem on her blog.

After Sorrow comes Hope.


Hummingbird heartbeats, hoof beats, a whirring thrum and thrill.
Flight of flicker, fancy, fantasy, fantastic flying yet fearful
Blink and blush, quickly and quietly, keep it buried, keep it below
It could get away, you know.
Skipping, tripping, flipping swiftly slowly silently sounding
Uncatchable; uncageable; unimaginable; so unreal
Barely beyond the brink of minds eye, mine eye
Moody and mopey and dusk, yet merry and maypoles at rising,
My time flies and butterflies and ladybugs and it flies.
Landing only lightly lately like lightning
In a flash, fearsome fire, and it is far fled
Or maybe not, it is near still, to burn and bleed and blossom.
Which peerless path shall it pick to plod or plough?
To turn and till the hearts of all the helpless heavenless hosts
And gift them heaven, a priceless precious princely gift:
Continuing courage, dauntless drive to do what can be done,
But also to bloom, petting petals out upon themselves
To keep and continue, constant, cheerful, cherubic
To lose it is like the loss of life and love and laughter
Celticly knotted, tied and woven with warp and weft
A tearless tapestry of dawning delight.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Guitar Music

I've recently been going through Bart Hopkin's album After Seven Years, and have found it to be quite good (if you like good guitar with minimal accompaniment). Click on my title for samples. I liked it a great deal, and would highly recommend it. My favorite is his rendition of She's Not There by Rod Argent of The Zombies.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rough Draft of Daft Stuff, Referring to John 1

John is probably the most interesting of all of the gospels. He's my favorite NT writer, and ties with Solomon (Cantica Canticorum) for my favorite Scriptural author. So, here is a brief intro to reading his gospel, and then a briefer overview of John 1.

John should be read as a יוֹם כִּפּוּר (yom kippur) entrance into the temple: the first five chapters deal with water (ceremonial washing), then light and bread (holy place), then the blood and death, then the High Priest returning from the presence of God alive, signifying the Divine acceptance of the offering and the atonement for the sins of the nation. Of course, this is simplistic: taken with Revelation, it forms a chiastic whole, it has tremendously complex themes of marriage (as the Second Adam follows the footsteps of the first up a hill, into a deep sleep, has his side opened and a bride created from it as well as obeying God on a tree to be the faithful guard of the garden), Eden (his resurrection occurs in a garden, he is seen in a garden, etc), and many more that I've never discovered, but it still works well for a general overview.

Now, for chapter one. Or rather, as far into chapter one as my sleep-deprived mind feels like going. The first two divisions are quite interesting, and are made numerically: the three repetitions of Word in 1 is the foundation of 1-3, then the seven repetitions of light in 4-9 lead to the natural division that takes place between 13 and 14. 14 is lightly distinguished from what came before by a very explicit chiasm (14-18: only begotten, only begotten; grace and truth, grace and truth) that centers yet again--just in case you happened to miss the rather prevalent preceding theme of the Divinity of Christ--that centers yet again on the eternal existence of Christ: "He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me." It also calls himself as his first witness, along with Peter and James. His second witness he calls immediately after; John the Baptist.

19 is the opening bookend of another chiasm that closes in 28: from Jerusalem, Bethabara; Christ Elijah and the Prophet, Christ Elijah and the Prophet; those who sent us, those who were sent; you say, Isaiah said, with the center being focused on the office of John as the prophesied forerunner of the (Incarnated) Deity.

Verse 29 opens another chiasm, in which is a trilogy of John's actions: said, bore witness, testified. It is also the first mention of the Spirit, making this the end of the natural section of 1-34 as an exposition of God, and of Christ as God. Christ was in heaven with God; the Spirit of God is with Christ on earth. This could be viewed as another witness, but the text flows far better as a chiasm: The Word with God in the beginning, the Spirit (of God) on Christ (the Incarnation of the Word) after John; the witnesses (which are bookended by the "He who comes after is preferred before") are at the center.

29-34 (Lamb of God, Son of God); 30-33b (He was before me, He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit); 31-33a (I did not know, I did not know); Center, 32: And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him."

Also, I don't yet know what to make of it, but the trilogy of "He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me" is repeated for emphasis, but probably also for some structural theme. Were I to guess, it is a part of the overall chiastic structure, the damning Arche chiasm of the passage: 1. only begotten, 3. Lamb of God: center: 2. you don't know Him. But that's a guess, and I haven't yet gotten to the big picture, to the loose chiastic structure.

That is as far as I will go with the structural analysis for the moment. The prevalent, inescapable theme is the utter Deity of Christ, which John asserts completely by verse 14.

So, this is the focus of the first section of John 1. The Word, the second member of the Godhead, was with the First, and comes bearing the Third, as witnessed by a couple of John's, and the Pharisees, parallel to the darkness, did not comprehend the One standing among them (5, 26).

Wimpy Winston

ChurchillChurchill by Paul Johnson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

All in all, rather badly done. Well researched, but his focus couldn't have been more limp-wristed and pathetic.

He wrote this book to answer the question, "Did Churchill save England?" The answer, if you were wondering, is yes. He saved not only England, but the world. If it weren't for Churchill, you wouldn't even exist. And neither would puppies or kittens or butterflies or ice cream. I was hoping to hear about the man, or at least some funny quotes from the legend. I got very little of either. I found out a few interesting facts, such as the fact that he took up painting and was good at it--about 500 of his paintings survive--and that--get this--he had between eight and ten million words in print by the time he died. Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was absolutely dwarfed by his account of the first world war: 1,100,000 words to 2,050,000. The last Harry Potter book, by comparison, has fewer than 200,000, and that's just cause the editors decided to sit back, drink gin and practice saying, "why yes, I am the editor of the most successful books in the civilized world" in front of a mirror instead of actually editing the book. Hardcovers are more expensive.

But Churchill comes across looking kinda like a pansy by this guys account. A pansy is the last thing he was: he was the one who specifically ordered the bombing of Dresden. He was the one who brutally suppressed the Irish, causing more civilian casualties than anyone seems likely to admit. He was a violent, brutal, bulldog of a man, but this author spends half the book explaining that though Churchill was always smoking a cigar, he never inhaled. Seriously? Why on earth would we care? I was looking for Churchill: the "blood, toil, tears and sweat" Churchill, the "never has so much been owed by so many to so few," the Churchill that almost singlehandedly built up both the British navy and RAF, the one that was so determined to win that he would have nuked every city between Berlin and Belfast if he'd had the bombs, the one that said "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

And, if our author was too concerned with explaining how he watered down his whiskey so he didn't actually drink as much as it seemed, too concerned lest our freshly whitewashed hero(?) (he got plenty of exercise) be human, then he could at least have given us some comedy. I mention Churchill to the most uneducated person--to the governmentally schooled among us--and he'll even start fumbling around with, "'you may be drunk, but I'm...' no, wait... 'Madam, you're ugly, but I'm Winston...' no..." Churchill was hilarious, quick witted and could be downright vicious with his comebacks, but we're given so little of that in this book that I would never have guessed he had a sense of humour at all (yes, I spell it with a "u", just like honour and valour and all those others. I'd spell dog with a "u" if it wasn't my pastor's name). So, the book was simply boring. I'd hoped for better.

But, if you're more interested in Churchill's policy than his person, in his chronology than his character, this book is well researched, and I have no doubt--no doubt--that it's accurate. It simply has to be.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

My Mommy Loves Me

One of my favorite poems as of yet (if you don't do this already, click on my titles, for therein is hidden great treasure).

A Second Childhood

When all my days are ending
And I have no song to sing,
I think I shall not be too old
To stare at everything;
As I stared once at a nursery door
Or a tall tree and a swing.

Wherein God's ponderous mercy hangs
On all my sins and me,
Because He does not take away
The terror from the tree
And stones still shine along the road
That are, and cannot be.

Men grow too old for love, my love,
Men grow too old for wine,
But I shall not grow too old to see
Unearthly daylight shine,
Changing my chamber's dust to snow
Till I doubt if it be mine.

Behold, the crowning mercies melt,
The first surprises stay;
And in my dross is dropped a gift
For which I dare not pray:
That a man grow used to grief and joy
But not to night and day.

Men grow too old for love, my love,
Men grow too old for lies;
But I shall not grow too old to see
Enormous night arise,
A cloud that is larger than the world
And a monster made of eyes.

Nor am I worthy to unloose
The latchet of my shoe;
Or shake the dust from off my feet
Or the staff that bears me through
On ground that is too good to last,
Too solid to be true.

Men grow too old to woo, my love,
Men grow too old to wed:
But I shall not grow too old to see
Hung crazily overhead
Incredible rafters when I wake
And find I am not dead.

A thrill of thunder in my hair:
Though blackening clouds be plain,
Still I am stung and startled
By the first drop of the rain:
Romance and pride and passion pass
And these are what remain.

Strange crawling carpets of the grass,
Wide windows of the sky:
So in this perilous grace of God
With all my sins go I:
And things grow new though I grow old,
Though I grow old and die.

-G.K. Chesterton

John Adams

John AdamsJohn Adams by David McCullough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book I picked up because it was available, not because I had any particular interest in the man. That has changed. From his deeply loving and tender marriage to his obsessive political career to his troubled children to his tumultuous friendship with Jefferson, this is the story of a brilliant, flawed, real man, for whom I now have the greatest respect.

Without this man, we most likely would not be a nation: he was the one that fought ceaselessly for a declaration of independence, and yet he harbored no delusions regarding the length of the conflict or the effort that it would require. He alone of all the proponents for the war declared that it could take upwards of ten years.

This also contains the origins of John Quincy, and they are fascinating.

Excellent book, with perhaps not so many original quotes as I would have liked.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

In Cold Blood

In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This last and greatest work of Truman Capote is truly horrific. The greatest shock to me was the lack of distance between the mind of the criminals and my own mind. I somehow always expect villains to be clear-cut black hats, despite the fact that I am often one of them. But our minds have the ability to justify anything.

I don't quite know what it was that the book did to Capote, but in the course of writing it, he became close friends with the one that actually pulled the trigger, then used and abandoned him at the last second. He didn't show up to the hanging, and he didn't file the final appeal that he could have filed. He is reported to have said to Harper Lee that he couldn't save him, and she responded (accurately) that he didn't want to: he wanted an ending to his book. A terrifying read.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perfecting Prose

There are a couple of quotations that I've been trying to improve, and am at the stage where I'm looking for the opinions of other wordsmithish peoples. Be brutal, have fun: if you think a different word works better to convey the same meaning, tell me. If you think the meaning is stupid, it's probably because God hates either you or me; smart money's on me. After the quote, I'll list the words that I'm already debating. Input is desired. It's kind of the point.

Why do we kill to dissect? Do we not know the bird better on the bough than beneath the blade?

1. kill
2. dissect
3. know the bird better / better know the bird
4. bough

Always remember: the only difference between you and the ones you pity is grace;
the only difference between you and the ones you despise is a choice,
and, but for the choice of God, you would have had no grace,
and, but for the grace of God, you would have had no choice.

1. Always remember
2. difference / distance / something else
3. ones
4. pity
5-6 see # 2 and #3.
7. despise / loathe / something else
8. and, but for
9. would have had

The first one is obviously more refined, with a lot less wiggle room. The second one I want to remain chiastic (A B B' A'), and I want it to end on our choice being allowed by the grace of God, as that is more offensive to us than our grace being dependent upon God's choice. Beyond that, I'm looking for other opinions as to the overall aesthetics of the acoustics.

All input will be valued; some will be valued a lot more highly. It's not a competition, but Sproul already lost. Sorry Sproul. It's just the rules.

Jesse Broussard

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jane Austen Has it Right

In Genesis 2:24 we are told that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and that the two shall become one flesh. The reason for it is the first poem of Scripture, the first words of man: "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called אסה (i-sha) for from 'מעיס לקחה זאת' (me-ish lu-ko-cha zot: man was taken she)."

The curious part comes in the NT reference of Paul's, in Ephesians 5:31 (by the way: Paul is not the name Saul was given when he stopped using Biblical heroes for target practice a la Braveheart; Paul is the Greek [Gentile] form of the Hebrew Saul). Because Paul, in his wonderful Greek (for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and "προσκολληθησεται προσ την γυναικα:" shall be cleaved to his wife), adds on a lovely little addendum: Ephesians 5:32. "This is a great mystery, but I speak of Christ and the church."

I don't know how many times I have read that, and it is quite simply put, but I don't think it ever really sank in. Just think of the ramifications of this analogy: a son leaving his family is compared to Christ's incarnation. Please, if one of my four faithful readers (moving up in the world, aren't we?) notices some random bit of heresy thrown in, don't start stacking the faggots: it's actually hard to speak of things like this without coming dangerously close to an edge somewhere or other, and I'd really prefer not to be burned at the stake quite yet.

Now, we always gravitate to the second half of the Genesis reference: the great mystery is Christ and the Church as husband and wife, and this is true, and this is glorious, and this is astounding. But we completely gloss over what had to happen for this even to be possible: Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead, had to leave His Father and--figuratively--Mother (forgive me and keep in mind, I hate The Shack), and become human. On top of this, He never leaves that humanity behind. He is glorified, yes, He is Deity, yes, but he never leaves His human flesh behind.

Allow me to quickly qualify the rest of this post: God is God, and we aren't, and we never will be, and He'll never not be. All clear? There is an infinite distance between God and us, always has been, always will be. God to us is infinitely greater than we are to whatever is eaten by the bacteria dying at the hands of our white blood cells right now, and always will be, okay? I don't even like fire.

So, this is the narrative arc of the story. God created humans in His Image, to become like Him. Not only did we not continue in His Image, but we defiled and defaced it. Now, picture this: you have the Infinite, the Creator, the Αρχε of all: He can do whatever He wants, He can write us off and start over from scratch; He can skip the whole process and simply create the result; He can do things that we could never even think of, or He could just say forget it. After all, it's not as if He needs us for anything. But no. He does none of this. He completes His purpose; He makes us like Him. How? By making Himself like us.

As humans, we were created to be like God--it was no false temptation--but we fell where He stood: "being equal with God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped..." Humans were created to ascend into a (lesser, finite, limited) type of equality with God, but we fell. So God jumps down into a (greater, dual natured μυστεριον) type of equality with us so that He might become a fitting Bridegroom, then ascends into what we were supposed to be, that He might lead us thence, and the story be completed in a Wedding.

This is indeed a Great Mystery; this is indeed The Great Mystery. Let us be grateful: our story does not start with birth and end with death. Our story starts with birth, dies, is reborn into a greater life, and then gets eternally married.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Merry Lewis of the Weather

Undaunted CourageUndaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this to be an engaging, thoroughly researched and very good review of the Lewis & Clark expedition. It taught me a good deal more than I'd expected to learn, and did so without being dull or heavy-handed. N. D. Wilson is rumored to have said that teaching is loving something in the presence of others, and Ambrose does exactly that.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mo Chridh

I recently finished Pawn in Frankincense by Dunnett. I know of one other book that can have the same effect on me, and it was written by Tolkien. The chess game and its horrific ending. How does one subject his character to so great a suffering? And how does the character survive? And how does the author live with himself? I don't know that I could.

In my opinion, one of the most devastating climaxes of prose ever written. "Say goodnight to the dark."

Only Slightly Summoned

The SummonsThe Summons by John Grisham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Holly once complained that some of Wodehouse's books wouldn't exist except for people lying. Well here's another. And, to make matters worse, it's not Wodehouse.

Don't get me wrong: Grisham can construct a sentence, but he's better at constructing plots. However, in this one, his usual nail-biting suspense failed me greatly. About twenty minutes into it, I could have written the ending myself.

Still, it was enjoyable, and if you're even slightly less cynical than I am (do flowers wither as you walk past? When you step outside, do you darken the sun?), you'd probably greatly enjoy it.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Nature and Her Laws Lay Hid in Night...

God said 'Let Newton be,' and all was light." --My favorite little monster.

Isaac Newton (Christian Encounters Series)Isaac Newton by Mitch Stokes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book because my math teacher wrote it, not out of any inherent interest in Newton. That lasted about the first two chapters. From that point on, I was fascinated with the little guy: obsessive, neurotic, reclusive, a genius with a few slight misanthropic tendencies--he really is an astonishing character. Nothing at all like I'd pictured him, and I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in anything at all (though it is somewhat weak on dragons).

Stokes obviously knows what he's talking about, and he does a magnificent job of getting a well rounded review of Newton into so small of a book. Not only do we get the big picture, but we get an enormous amount of personality as well, which is fairly unusual.

My one complaint would have to be the somewhat inconsistent prose: Usually an author has a particular tone that he maintains. You can tell the difference between a paragraph written by Jorge Luis Borges and one written by Oscar Wilde; between Chesterton and Tolkien. Stokes' writing seemed to vary a good deal: none of it was at all bad, but there is a difference between a well researched author, and a well published researcher, and Stokes falls into the latter category. But if you approach his book with that in mind, you will not be disappointed.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Like a Sheep With a Secret Sorrow...

Jeeves and the Old School Chum (85150)Jeeves and the Old School Chum by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Technically, it's Jeeves & the Old School Chum (and other stories), but Goodreads couldn't find it, and no, I did not mean the Other Scholl Chum; thank you anyway.

It was typical Wodehouse: delightful. I was laughing the entire time, and of course highly recommend it. Also includes The Ordeal of Young Tuppy, Episode of the Dog McIntosh, The Love That Purifies, and The Spot of Art.

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How Does One Beck a Stein?

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. That was the happiest thing I've read this side of Notes From the Underground. Brilliantly written, almost a bit predictable after the introduction of the wife, but still it unfolds like a persian rug being unrolled on a hardwood floor: lovely and intricate.

This once again reinforces in my mind the absolute necessity for writers to have the entire story mapped out before they begin the writing of it. How else the conversation regarding who should have shot the dog; how else the introduction of the self-same luger? It is a small, tight-knit plot that is tragic and all-too believable. The chief flaw of course is the utter lack of redemption.

The title, by the way, is an afterthought: originally titled "Something that Happened," the current name is from one of--in my opinion, anyway--Burn's greater poems, and one that is quite simply delightful: To a Mouse.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

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Another Explanation

This time, of a question I never asked.

God appears to Moses in a burning bush: a bush that is on fire, but is not consumed. God could have appeared to him in any way, shape or form (just look at Ezekiel). So why the bush? And why was it on fire? And why was it not being consumed?

Well, let's look at typology. Trees (and bushes?) are righteous men or nations: if you doubt me, just read the Bible looking for references to trees, and attempt to do so in an intelligent manner, not in a wooden and literal fashion as if you had no brain. No, not every tree in the Bible is a person; Jonah isn't sitting under a guy with some type of fatal parasite; Absalom doesn't get nabbed by some remnant of the nephilim; but when the Bible presents a tree, it is often referring to a righteous person or nation (a basic rule would be that if the typological reading does no violence to the text, but opens it up in a manner that is consistent with the rest of Scripture, then go for it. If your typological reading leads you to the conclusion that locusts are obviously helicopters, or that you should drink the cool-aid, then maybe not so much.). The fact that this particular specimen is on fire but not consumed, along with the context of the story, makes it quite possible that it is a representation of the nation of Israel. It is on fire; they are persecuted; it is not consumed; God will save them. Just another thought from Sumpter. Or Leithart. Or someone else; I don't know, nor do I particularly care, as it's four in the morning and I have fifteen minutes of break left before I go back to work.

Also interesting is what He tells Moses to do: "Take your shoes from off your feet..." Men wear shoes to protect their feet, yes, but symbolically (or typologically) the shoes represent the separation of men from the cursed ground (see the list of clean animals: those separated from the ground, those fish with scales to separate them from the water, and those birds that don't step on dead animals--though, yes, there is more to it. See Jordan's Through New Eyes for a fuller treatment). Yet where God is, the ground is holy (tangentially, this bears enormous weight with Leviticus 5--the dust from the floor of the tabernacle is holy--and Jesus' treatment of the woman caught in the act of adultery all by her lonesome), so Moses must take off his shoes.

I am sure there is also something more to the disciples being commanded to shake the dust from their feet when leaving towns that did not receive them, but my break is almost over. I'll explore later. Or I'll just ask Leithart. Or Sumpter. Or someone else.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Possible Explanation

In 1 Samuel 20:30, Saul makes a very confusing accusation against his son Jonathan in the wake of discovering that David had escaped his hand by Jonathan's aid (the whole feast followed by shooting arrows into a field scenario). It is an accusation whose language Saul takes directly from Leviticus 18:7, and it refers to having sexual relations with ones mother, Oedipus style.

This is all clear enough. The confusion is why the accusation is made, and why it is made here, and I came across the (possible) answer purely by accident. I had gotten off work on Saturday morning, and, purely on a whim, decided to have breakfast before going home and going to bed. So, I went to the Breakfast Club and was invited into a Bible study taking place, which Peter Leithart was leading at the time. Anyway, here is the theoretical explanation given.

By explicitly contradicting his father's wishes, Jonathan is acting as if he had no paternal obligations to Saul, which could in turn give rise to the theory that Saul was not his father. Saul's accusation is far-fetched, but Leithart's explanation fits, and, as I know of no other that does, I am adopting that as my working theory of the verse until I find something else that fits better (this is me hinting to all three of you--readership is climbing--to suggest alternate theories in the comments section).


Monday, August 23, 2010

Titan Theory: Who's Your Daddy (part one)

After much debate, I am finally confident enough to start mocking all those idiots that disagree with my (recently established) position on Genesis six: the Nephilim.

To get the Hebrew out of the way: נפל is the root word used here, and it means to fall (nephel). The plural ending is added, and the root word expanded, until it becomes נפילימ, nephilim, simply "fallen ones," as in rebels or apostates. Which doesn't really help us at all.

Here, I am going to outline the problems with both theories and the answers to them (where applicable), starting with the most commonly held: that the Godly line of Seth is intermarrying with the ungodly line of Cain.

First off, the phrasing is quite odd: "the sons of God... the daughters of men..." Sons of God is used elsewhere, though it's not exactly common, and it usually means the godly humans. Granted, and gladly. The issue is with its combination with "daughters of men," which is almost never used elsewhere in Scripture, and how that leaves all the masculinity on one side.

The implication is that the men of the line of Seth saw the daughters of Cain, and married them, while the daughters of the line of Seth did no such thing, which is problematic. The only plausible explanation I have heard is that the text is attempting to demonstrate the abdication of the Godly men, and demonstrates the effects of the Godly pursuing the ungodly, perhaps as a warning to future readers. While plausible, this argument is demonstrably weak, and rather difficult to extract from the plain text. Let us leave it as a possibility, and move on to the second and greater problem: giants.

The implication of the text here gives us a bit of an issue for the line of Seth theory. The sons of God (Christians) married the lovely daughters of men (the non unattractive pagan mall rats) and had kids. The kids were giants; great heroes, revered men. Why? There is no plausible explanation for why the marriage of a Christian with a pagan results in a giant--not a single one--and there are unlimited examples to the contrary, down to the present day. The only way out of it is to try to dissociate the giants from the marriages, which fails: see Genesis 6:1 and 6:4, and compare: "Now it came to pass... In those days." What days? The giants began in those days, when the sons of God saw the daughters of men.

Taking these two together, the violence done to the text to explain away the first problem is by no means justified when we are left with such a massive problem in the theory we are trying to salvage.

On to the problems with the second theory: the sons of God are angels.

First off, angels are spiritual beings, humans are physical. How can there be attraction between them?

A couple of points: there is the 1 Corinthians 11:6-10 verse, which I'm not even going to mention here. It at least links angels and women in a suggestive way, though it tells us nothing. Also, we are exposing our ridiculous dualism here: our underlying assumption is that the spiritual and physical are totally separated. Finally, we are assuming that angels are spiritual, which, oddly enough, we have no reason to do. We are told that we host angels (Hebrews 13:2), and angels do all sorts of non-spiritual things (like eat food and slaughter people). So it is quite likely that they are either both physical and spiritual (like us), or that they can at least act like it.

Secondly, it just seems crazy.

Personally, I'd like to list this under the arguments for it being correct, and here's my rather complicated logic: 1. We are stupid and usually wrong (see the Bible).

Third: the text is focused on men, their sins, and God's response.

This seems to be the most difficult problem, but let us examine it closer. God's response to the intermarriage is to say, in essence, "Okay, that's it. I've had enough." ("I will not strive with man forever...") Also, keep in mind that it is the descendants that are primarily focused upon. Both of these fit quite well within the theory that the Sons of God are angels. Overall, the text allows for the angel theory quite easily: "man is extremely sinful, and now he is getting an influx of supernatural blood, magnifying him in every way, so that's it; I'm done with him, on to Noah."

The final problem is a problem for both theories: the nephilim (נפילימ) exist after the fall.

There are three possible explanations, and none of them involve holding their breath (for these I'm indebted to Doug Wilson).

First, the same thing might have happened again. Second, the dna for these fallen ones might have been preserved through the line of Noah (very unlikely, given the text of Genesis 6: nephilim=bad, therefore I'm going to destroy the world except one family, which will of course preserve the nephilim). The most likely theory is simply that the name was later applied to non-nephilim giants, and the appellation was what survived the flood.

Given all of these, I've got to go with the theory of the Sons of God being the angels spoken of in Jude 6 and 1 Peter 3:19-20 (time of Noah is in particular illuminating in verse 20).

Any theories, arguments I failed to mention, or any type of problem that any of you have with this, please comment.

Jesse Broussard

Wodehousian Fun