Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Discovering Planet Narnia

planet narnia bookI am currently reading Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. I am only halfway through, so this is not a full review, only some thoughts. I just want to catch you before you appropriate all your Christmas money; this may be a book you want under your tree with your name affixed to it.

The primary reason to read this book is that Lewis was a genius and the Narnia movies are, to put it bluntly, not. If you are watching the movies but not reading the Narniad to your children, then your children are learning lies about Lewis. Although it may be formally true that the films were “based on books written by C. S. Lewis,” it can only be true in the meanest sense. The movies are “action/adventures” for children; the books are the subtlest of fairy tales. The movies are the epitome of unliterary, while the Narniad nears the apex of literary. The Chronicles of Narnia are sublime, and Michael Ward proves it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lewis: We Are Far Too Easily Pleased

"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, 'Unselfishness'. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, 'Love'. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

-C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (introductory paragraph)

Order your copy here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Are You Planning on Yelling at Your Children Today?

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Galatians 6:1
In his sermon series entitled, Loving Little Ones, Douglas Wilson makes application of this passage from the larger church body to the specific microcosm of the Christian home. In our homes we have leaders and followers, teachers and learners, older, wiser ones and younger, foolish ones; everyone in both categories being brothers and sisters in Christ. Pastor Wilson pointed out that in our homes we tend to leave the “ye who are spiritual” part out of the verse. We assume that folks “at church” need to remember this verse whenever they may be admonishing, exhorting, rebuking, or correcting us, but when we get home, this verse does not apply when we are correcting our children. In the church, folks need to remember the “spirit of gentleness” part; especially when they are correcting us.  If they don’t, we get to turn things back around, make an accusation at them, and then completely ignore whatever they were trying to say to us. At home, we pretend like we are the “ye who are spiritual” ones by default, therefore “spiritualness” gets defined by however we are doing things at the moment.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Lost Tools of Thinking

Last year, our homeschool community, Classical Conversations, introduced the Lost Tools of Writing program as parts of the 7th and 8th grade curricula. This was a good, good thing. I am no expert in the Lost Tools curriculum or in the application of all it has to offer, but what I have seen has been fantastic. I offer you one thought in particular to express my excitement.

Classical Conversations students study grammar and composition through our Essentials program from around 9-years-old through age 12 (plus or minus a few months.) Here they learn how to recognize and use the parts of speech, how to classify a sentence from one of the 112 possible choices, how to make a key word outline, how to diagram a sentence, how to write an essay, how to write from a source, as well as from image prompts, how to present their essay in front of an audience, etc. They also do much, much more than this, but being a dad, I'm not in class with them every week, so my list is shorter than it could be.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Naming God's World

I am currently rereading Nancy Pearcey's Soul of Science. Here's a juicy morsel from the conclusion of chapter 7:

"The primeval paradigm of human knowledge is the account of Adam's naming the animals. Devising a suitable label for each animal required careful observation, analysis, and categorization, based on the way it was created. Adam couldn't very well call a fish 'woolly creature with four legs' or a bird 'scaled creature with fins.' He had to reflect the world as God made it.

Yet Genesis tells us 'God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call them.' God did not prescribe one right name, one correct way to describe an animal. He left room for Adam to be creative, both in the features he chose to focus on and in the terms he selected to describe the animal. In this simple paradigm Genesis gives the Biblical basis for all the arts and sciences. On the one hand, we root our work in the external world God has created, and, on the other hand, we freely exercise the creativity and imagination He has given us." (page 160)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

We're Getting Warmer

We're Getting Warmer—Family Time

Three years ago while building our house we installed both a chimney and an electric heat pump. The heat pump was for present use. The chimney was for the future, standing cold and dormant while the heat pump did its work. For all the benefits that it does have, there is something missing from the heat pump experience—something crucial, like heat. Although a heat pump keeps the pipes from freezing, one cannot stand over the grate and actually get warm. Instead, there’s a draft—a mildly lukewarm breeze that actually sends chills down my spine just thinking about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Morning Devotions: The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 6

In Chapter 6 of C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape exhorts Wormwood to “direct the malice of his patient to his immediate neighbor whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.” Screwtape references the English people as “creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door.”

Recalling that this book was written in 1942, the English people would certainly have been loving their enemies by caring for wounded German pilots. These Luftwaffe pilots had fallen from the sky, just two years earlier, while attempting to destroy London during their Blitz—37 consecutive weeks of bombing raids, resulting in the destruction of over one million English homes and deaths of over 40,000 civilians. Screwtape’s Enemy (God) told His people to love their enemies, and the English people were actually doing it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Baby Steps Toward the Masterpiece

Thanks to a blue-light special at the Kindle store last year, I acquired an e-copy of N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. The first section addresses humanity’s struggle with justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty. His questions are honest and piercing, and his logic so seamless, that I find it hard to decide on a pull quote without doing a great injustice to the surrounding material as well as the quote itself, but, having said all that, here’s a portion that is exceptionally tasty.  It is from chapter 4, For the Beauty of the Earth,
"What we must notice at this stage is that both in the Old Testament and the New, the present suffering of the world–about which the biblical writers knew every bit as much as we do–never makes them falter in their claim that the created world really is the good creation of a good God. They live with the tension. And they don’t do it by imagining that the present created order is a shabby, second-rate kind of thing, perhaps (as in some kinds of Platonism) made by a shabby second-rate sort of god. They do it by telling a story of what the one creator God has been doing to rescue his beautiful world and put it to rights. And the story they tell, which we shall explore further in due course, indicates that the present world really is a signpost to a larger beauty, a deeper truth. It really is the authentic manuscript of one part of a masterpiece. The question is, What is the whole masterpiece like, and how can we begin to hear the music in that way it was intended?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Alfred, Calvin, and Tolkien


Image.ashxOn a recent journey from our little hamlet in middle Tennessee to the bustling metropolis of Nashville, I was accompanied by my son, Calvin.  The journey takes about an hour, which gives ample time to listen to a lecture en route.  Dr. George Grant willingly rode in the mp3 player on the dashboard, while Calvin was happy to have the whole backseat to himself.  I asked Dr. Grant if he would tell me about Alfred the Great again, and he obliged.

Dr. Grant began with a lengthy quote from G.K. Chesterton’s, Ballad of the White Horse King. He then proceeded to tell us the story of this great king of Wessex; the king who united a band of tribal chiefs to defend his home and his people from the onslaught of the Viking hordes; the king who sang and prayed with his troops before battle; the king that redesigned a navy in order to quell the pagan plunderers before they reached his island.  As Dr. Grant spoke I recalled what I’d learned about King Alfred from Ben Merkle’s book, The White Horse King. So I paused our inimitable orator to tell my son about shield walls and bezerkers, about Guthrum and the Danes, about bravery and cunning, about a king that learned humility through hardship.  Calvin commented how much the Middle Ages sounded like Middle Earth, and I agreed.  Externally I agreed.  Internally I rejoiced that my son was avidly listening to my stories and listening well enough to have made a connection between Alfred and Tolkien.

I love King Alfred.  I want to be like King Alfred, and I want my sons to be more like King Alfred than I will ever be.  Long ago, I realized that you can’t force your children to love your heroes, but during that conversation with Calvin, I realized that you don’t have to.  Your love for your heroes will be infectious.  Your children will simply catch it. I love King Alfred because King Alfred loved King Jesus and that love saved a nation from utter destruction.  I love King Jesus and I want Calvin to love King Jesus more than I ever will, so that he and I can sing with Alfred and his troops, with Tolkien and his hobbits, and with our beloved Dr. Grant,

220px-Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterWhen the enemy comes in a’roarin’ like a flood,
Coveting the kingdom and hungering for blood,

The Lord will raise a standard up and lead His people on,
The Lord of Hosts will go before defeating every foe;
Defeating every foe.

For the Lord is our defense, Jesus defend us,
For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Birds, the Bees, and the Eleven-Year-Old Trip

My children know that when they reach their eleventh birthday, they get to go on an overnight trip with Papa, i.e., me. They get to pick where we go and what we do for that entire day (within reason, of course–in other words, Disney world is not an option.) We have a grand time doing the things that they enjoy, and as a dad, I rejoice in the opportunity to focus on them entirely for the weekend. However, the primary motivation for the special trip centers around getting them alone for several hours in order to begin more detailed discussions about those ‘birds and bees’ that can be so uncomfortable to discuss. The goal is not to talk about it all, all at once, but to invite them to engage in a conversation with their dad. My hope is that this conversation will continue through their teen years and up until they say, “I do,” before God, their minister, and the gathered witnesses, and the chosen, complimentary mate says, “I do,” in response.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Heaven Understands Hell, But Hell Does Not Understand Heaven

The following is a quote from C. S. Lewis' A Preface to Paradise Lost:

"In all but a few writers the 'good' characters are the least successful, and every one who has ever tried to make even the humblest story ought to know why. To make a character worse than oneself it is only necessary to release imaginatively from control some of the bad passions which, in real life, are always straining at the leash; the Satan, the Iago, the Becky Sharp, within each of us, is always there and only too ready, the moment the leash is slipped, to come out and have in our books the holiday we try to deny them in our lives. But if you try to draw a character better than yourself, all you can do is to take the best moments you have had and to imagine them prolonged and more consistently embodied in action. But the real high virtues which we do not possess at all, we cannot depict except in a purely external fashion. We do not really know what it feels like to be a man much better than ourselves. His whole inner landscape is one we have never seen, and when we guess it we blunder. It is in their 'good' characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revelations. Heaven understands Hell and Hell does not understand Heaven, and all of us, in our measure, share the Satanic, or at least Napoleonic, blindness. To project ourselves into a wicked character we have only to stop doing something, and something that we are already tired of doing; to project ourselves into a good one we have to do what we cannot and become what we are not." (p. 101)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dads: Education is Just Like Land Surveying, Only Different

A land surveyor from the perspective of an eight-year-old

How do we evaluate progress in our children? Whether we are measuring academic progress, spiritual progress, progress in their chores, progress in their sibling/social interaction, how do we surmise that they have gone from a position of relative immaturity in an area to a place of more maturity? I am not a trained educational expert, nor am I a child psychologist, nor am I a pastor or certified counselor, but I am a land surveyor. I am a professional measurer. People pay me to measure their real estate to a very high degree of precision, culminated by a rubber stamp on a plat by which I stake my livelihood on the fact that I’m right.

I am also a father—have been for 15 years. I never finished college, but I’m working very hard on my PhDad. By God’s grace we’ll graduate these six young people into godly adulthood.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"String of same-sex marriage rulings broken"

"Roane County Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr., of Kingston ruled in a case of two gay men who were married four years ago in Iowa and are now seeking a divorce in their home state of Tennessee.  Unlike every other court ruling — federal or state — since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor in June 2013, the judge rejected the idea that the Windsor decision undercut state authority to ban same-sex marriages."

Read the entire article here:

Classical Education: The Spirit of Inquiry

“Classical education is not, preeminently, of a specific time or place. It stands instead for a spirit of inquiry and a form of instruction concerned with the development of style through language and conscience through myth. The key word here is inquiry. Everything springs from the special nature of the inquiry. The inquiry dictates the form of instruction and establishes the moral framework for thought and action. Classical inquiry possesses three essential attributes. The first of these is a general curiosity, as opposed to the systematic or specific interest of modern science. One does not launch a classical inquiry with a preconceived methodology or from the point of view of an established academic discipline. Consequently, the field is open for all sorts of questions, whether regarding the true nature of happiness, the cause of the Persian wars, or the source of the Nile. Second, one responds to these questions by forming imaginative hypotheses. The very nature of the questions, being far-flung and wide-ranging, often makes impossible what qualify today as scientific hypotheses. Third, one completes the inquiry by devising methods for testing the hypotheses. Again, the restrictions placed by modern science upon methodology are not adequate. The method used to test the hypothesis formed in a classical inquiry may involve reason or observation, logic or experimentation. The inquirer may even seek confirmation for his hypothesis in an emotional or religious experience. How else, ultimately, does one test the value of a poem or the validity of God’s love?

General curiosity, imagination in forming hypotheses, and method in testing them, then, mark the classical spirit of inquiry. This bent of mind allows the educated man to go on educating himself or extending the realms of knowledge for his fellows.”
David V. Hicks, Norms & Nobility, p.18

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Role of Heretical Christianity in the Rise of Islam

Image taken from
Although North Africa enjoyed the blessing of the presence of Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage and Augustine of Hippo, the impact of these great Catholic leaders was unable to maintain a long-lasting effect. The influence of Vandal Arianism supplanted Trinitarian Catholicism to the point that when the Muslims invaded from the East, there was no sufficient, theological base in the North Africans to resist the new Islamic heresies. Through a series of events, over a couple of centuries, the Byzantine people, and their Catholic culture, had become undesirable to the North Africans. When Vandal Arianism arrived on the scene, the North Africans were emotionally and psychologically prepared to have their Catholic dogma replaced. They did not specifically seek it out, but they were unprepared to repel the Vandal Arian heresy. Upon the acceptance of Vandal Arianism, the North Africans rejected Chalcedonian Christology and therefore, had no problem with the Islamic idea that Jesus was only a great prophet and that Mohammed had come as an even greater, and final, prophet. It was this religious difference between North Africa and the rest of Europe and southwest Asia, rather than any economic or socio-political differences, that opened the door for Islam to nearly eradicate Christianity from northern Africa.

Vandal Arianism developed in the Teutonic regions of northern Europe where Christ was viewed as a step above the average man, rather than a “second degree” God as he was viewed in Hellenic Arianism.  Jesus was a hero, a commander, or king, but not God like the divine All-Father.  This is as clearly heresy as the Hellenic version, albeit distinctive in the details.

In the early 430’s, the Teutonic general, Geiseric moved down through the Iberian Peninsula across the Straits of Gibraltar into North Africa.  By 439 he had conquered North Africa from present-day Mauritania to Tripoli in Libya.  He had become “master of North Africa”.  As surely as modern politicians show favors to those who will be favorable to advance their campaign, Geiseric, a Vandal Arian, promoted his religion in all the cities of his dominion.  Things were much easier for adherents to Vandal Arianism than for those who maintained the Trinitarian Catholic faith. Many clerics were exiled to Italy and the treasures of the local churches confiscated for Arian use.  To portray Geseric and his successors as merely religious zealots would be to oversimplify the matter, for politics played an important role in establishing their rule over the Berber people of North Africa.  With little to no religious allegiance to Rome or Constantinople, a North African ruler could count on that much more fidelity from his constituency. These anti-Catholic moves by the North African leaders, as well as some dumb moves by the Byzantines and Catholics themselves, solidified the shift from Trinitarian Christianity to Vandal Arianism.

Mohammed crafted his vision in 610 A.D., and within 80 years of his death in 632 A.D., his followers had spread the Muslim religion and kingdom throughout the Middle East, Egypt, North Africa and Spain.  Although the Byzantine generals and troops put up a fight every step of the way, the Arian predisposition of the Berber peoples in North Africa made them prime candidates for conversion to the Muslim faith.  This predisposition to a subordinate Christology aligned them more closely with an Islamic view of Jesus than a Catholic one.  The Quran refers to Jesus as a Prophet and the son of the virgin Mary but also says that Mohammed was a greater servant of God than Jesus. The Vandal Arian heresy had primed the pump for the next greater one than Jesus to come along.  As C.J. Speel surmises,
“Conversion from Teutonic Arianism, the faith of the bulk of North Africa’s population from ca. 450 to ca. 670 A.D., to Islam was an easy step.  In Teutonic Arianism Jesus was not God; neither was He the “Second degree” God of Arius, a philosophical logos.  He was a great tribal leader, or healer, or commander, an historical figure, a man who was manifested as the Son of God. Islam did not seriously alter this picture of Jesus; it simply added another and even more distinguished figure—the Prophet of Mecca to whom was revealed in most recent times the will of God.”
By 698 A.D. Carthage had fallen to Muslim invaders and has not yet risen from the ashes.  This is not simply an accounting of things that happened a long time ago on a continent far, far away.  We are not only concerned for the conversion of North Africans to Christianity, but we must take note of the current state of Christianity in our own land.  If a shift from the Trinitarian Catholic Faith of the historic creeds of the church is a tell-tale sign of what is coming, then we need to hang on tight.  This ride is about to get a lot bumpier.

For example, we are not too far removed from the Republican Mormon that was offered to us for consideration last presidential election.  He was weighed in balances and found wanting, but the sobering thing is that he accomplished being the last “conservative” on the scale.  What are conservative Americans attempting to accomplish if a Mormon is the man for the job?  Trinitarian Christianity cannot be anywhere but on the fringes of American culture if Mitt Romney made it as far as he did.  Not to mention the support he received from overtly Christian organizations like Billy Graham’s, who removed Mormonism from its list of cults on their website a few months before the election.  “Christian” leaders like Joel Osteen, the pastor of a Houston church, with tens of thousands of members, says that “Mitt Romney is a believer in Christ like me.”  If Osteen was the exception rather than the rule, it would be different, but American Christians bought it hook, line and sinker, and sent Romney up against Obama.  As least the Vandal Arians imposed the rule on the North Africans as their conquerors, as opposed to the GOP, who has willingly traded Nicaea and Chalcedon for some golden plates found buried on a hill in New York.

This is not meant to be a harsh judgment of folks who view the General Election as a zero-sum game, and therefore felt compelled to vote for one of the two options, however abhorrent the choices were.  It’s not the individual’s vote in November that is as disconcerting as the fact that Romney was ever considered viable by the conservative populace.

America is following in the footsteps of the North African culture, which has not known Christendom for over 1300 years.  She walked away from orthodoxy and God let her keep walking.  America is just a flash in the pan compared to many cultures, and we’ve already walked away.

Speel II, C.J. “The Disappearance of Christianity from North Africa in the Wake of the Rise of Islam.” Church History 29, no. 4 (1960): 379-397. Accessed February 1, 2013.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tolkien's Beowulf: Forth Sped the Bark

For my 40th birthday this year, I received a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of Beowulf. I was blessed to be the recipient of such a fine book, as we are all blessed that this translation has been added to both the published works of Tolkien and the array of Beowulf translations available. It was a "win-win" for everyone.

I read the text of the poem this morning and began the commentary, though it remains highly unlikely that I will finish the commentary anytime soon. The reading of the great Geat's tale in Tolkien's words led to many favorite quotes, but the following paragraph impressed me with its ease in reading and simplicity in content. It is about the return trip to Geatland from Denmark, and it reads with the rhythm of the rise and fall of the sea: the form and the content are one in the passage.

"Forth sped the bark troubling the deep waters and forsook the land of the Danes. Then upon the mast was the raiment of the sea, the sail, with rope made fast. The watery timbers groaned. Nought did the wind upon the waves keep her from her course as she rode the billows. A traveller upon the sea she fared, fleeting on with foam about her throat over the waves, over the ocean-streams with wreathed prow, until they might espy the Geatish cliffs and headlands that they knew. Urged by the airs up drove the bark. It rested upon the land." (lines 1595-1604)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Is Alan an Angel?

Is Alan an angel?  No, he’s not an angel.  But he is a saint--a saint with an extra 21st chromosome.  For God’s own glory, for Alan’s good, and for mine, He gave Alan an extra one.  I don’t know exactly what a chromosome is, but God has decided to create a fairly exclusive club amongst the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve in which only a select group of folks are included (about 2% of the world’s population). Here are some of the official distinctive traits that get you in this particular club:

  • Eyes that have an upward slant
  • Low muscle tone, small stature and short neck
  • Flat nasal bridge
  • Single, deep creases across the center of the palm
  • A single flexion furrow of the fifth finger

Those are just some of the physical traits.  There is also a tendency to learn information more slowly. However, we have noticed that, like most children, he’s prone to learn what he’s excited about and apt to forget that which he doesn’t really care about.  Hence potty training seems interminable, and his ability to read a book is probably several years away. Of course, I don’t say all this to bemoan his Downs.  I write this to extol the Lord for this intricately designed individual that He’s placed in my household—a young man that was never meant to have the same number of chromosomes as most of us, because he was uniquely called, and therefore designed, to be exactly who he is.

Vanity Fair: Not Buying What They're Selling

This article was originally published in Every Thought Captive magazine.

1-bunyan-pilgrims-progress-grangerAs Pilgrim and Faithful passed through the town of Vanity Fair, they created a “hubbub.” Pilgrim and Faithful dressed and spoke differently from the townspeople and refused to purchase the fleeting pleasures being peddled there. Upon being asked, “What will ye buy,” the Christians responded, “We buy the truth.” (Proverbs 23:23) At this answer, the people of Vanity Fair railed against the Christians, beat them, caged them, arraigned and tried them, and eventually murdered Faithful.

Why did the people of Vanity Fair react so violently at Faithful’s response? Why all the hubbub? The answer lies in the fact that the assertion for truth necessarily implies an assertion against falsity. The Deceiver is happy with any deception at all, for all lies point away from the single truth, and it is also true that anyone who speaks the truth necessarily condemns all falsehoods. Truth and lies are as mutually-exclusive as light and darkness.

John Bunyan points this out through three examples as Pilgrim and Faithful walk through Vanity Fair: their garb, their speech, and their refusal to buy what the Vanity Fairians are selling.

Their garb: Christians are clothed in “white garments” in the eternal, justificational sense, but for the moment let’s look at how this spiritual reality is manifest in the here-and-now. We are not to be like the world, but being in the world, we need to wear clothes, just like the world does. I wear my jeans on the lower half of my body and my shirt on the upper half, just like everyone else on earth, whether Christian or not. As America publicly undresses and Christians continue to cover themselves, no one will think twice about Christians wearing modest apparel unless and until some bold Christian asserts the truth that everyone should cover their nakedness. At that point, the Christian will encounter opposition. The “Truth” will be spoken, and the citizens of Vanity Fair will cry foul. While the world around us exults in their freedom from all constraint, the Christian, who loves their neighbor enough to step into their lives, will find that the particular freedom of speaking the truth in love has been vilified and must be constrained. “We’ll have none of that truth-telling here. Thank you very much,” goes the rule for that crowd that has “no rules.” Jesus said there is freedom in truth. The world wants freedom from truth. I doubt there will ever be a law prohibiting modesty, but there are, and will be, plenty denying the fact that modesty even exists.

Their speech: Many words can, and ought, to be spoken regarding coarse jesting, idle words, slander, gossip, etc., but the battle lines are not drawn on any of these minor skirmishes. The enemy will send out the berserkers when the Christian begins asserting that all of the issues of man’s tongue are judged against God’s single, unchanging standard of Truth. The world truly believes that there is no contradiction in imposing their maxim, “What’s true for you is true for you” on everyone, while also maintaining that it is wrong to insist upon one truth for everyone. Whenever they speak, they are implying that there is a meaning behind their utterances, all the while stating that no inherent meaning lies behind their vehement tongue wagging.

Christians in America speak English; secular humanists in America speak English, too. We do not need a new alphabet, new words, or new syntax to be holy; in fact, the vulgar vernacular is the only tongue that will be any use at all. It will not be different words that get us in trouble; it will be the ordinate use of the ones we have, asserting such a thing as an ordinate use that will cause a fuss.

Their investments: Christian and Faithful would not buy what was for sale in the markets of Vanity Fair. In order to be “relevant,” many American Christians are not only saying that we should buy what they’re selling, but we should slap a fish on it and sell it too. The issue at hand is not about silk-screened t-shirts, trendily-embossed Bible covers, bumper stickers, or WWJD bracelets (or whatever the current trends are); the issue is about where Christians go to find the answer to the question, “How can I best keep the two great commandments: to love God and neighbor?” If we seek to faithfully keep these two commandments before the watching world, we will be cities on hills whose lights cannot be hid, no matter what t-shirt we have on. As the world cries, “be yourself,” what they mean is “be trendy.” As the contemporary church around us cries, “be like them for the sake of the gospel,” we should respond, “no thank you, thank you very much.” We should want to be like Jesus for the sake of the gospel, not be like those who look like they’re all about Jesus. Don’t get me wrong—if you want to wear a “Jesus fish” while loving God and loving your neighbor, then go for it, but it will not be the uniform of a “relevant” Christian that makes you relevant. It will be the steady application of the two great commandments. On these hang ALL the law and the prophets. Christian love, exhibited through the keeping of the two great commandments and all subsequent corollaries, is unmistakable. They will know we are Christians by our love: love of God and love of neighbor.

May God preserve us from being “different” by Christianizing the garb, speech, and baubles of American Vanity Fair; may God gives us grace to speak this truth in love.

Friday, August 1, 2014

C. S. Lewis: The Poison of Subjectivism

christian reflections“Shortly after his conversion in 1929, C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend: ‘When all is said (and truly said) about the divisions of Christendom, there remains, by God’s mercy, an enormous common ground.’ From that time on Lewis thought that the best service he could do for his unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times–that ‘enormous common ground’ which he usually referred to as ‘mere’ Christianity.” Thus begins Walter Hooper’s preface to his collection of C. S. Lewis’ essays entitled Christian Reflections, published in 1966, just three years after Lewis’ death.
The essays concern sundry topics, but are united under the banner of Lewis’ pristine logic and unswerving commitment to the Christian faith. Here’s an excerpt from the essay, “The Poison of Subjectivism":

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hey, CC Dads! Are You Ready for Cycle 3?

(Note: 2015-2016 Foundations families will be going through Cycle 1 Memory work.)

Hey, CC Dads. July is nearing an end, which means that the 2014-2015 academic year is upon us. In just a few weeks, our wives and kiddos will be loading up in the van once a week to head to the local Classical Conversations campus for their community day. Their summer schedule will end. Their school year schedule will begin, and most of our schedules will continue unabated. We will go to work at the same time every morning and come home at the same time in the evening (unless you work the 2nd or 3rd shift.) The day-in/day-out schedule of a working man is not too terribly exciting, but we’re not complaining; a status quo of work is good to have—day-in/day-out.

This can cause a “disconnect” between us and our families as the new school year begins. After all, it’s their lives that are changing, not ours, right? But what if that is entirely the wrong attitude to have—so entirely wrong that we could call it an unbiblical attitude? After all, the Apostle Paul told fathers “to raise their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) Our wives have been given to us as blessed helpers, but they’re helping us with the mandate that God has bestowed upon us. If this “disconnect” that seems so intrinsic, so seemingly unavoidable, between homeschool dads and their homeschool families is unbiblical, then it is one that can certainly be avoided.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bloom Where You're Planted, or Don't

bloom where youre plantedIt must have been at least 1,000 times that well-meaning role models told me, “Bloom where you’re planted.” As soon as I started going to youth summer camps and youth retreats and youth groups, everybody and their brother had the same advice. “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Some phrases become cliché over time. This one was born that way, which doesn’t necessarily make it bad advice. It is biblical to compare people with plants. “He is like a tree planted by the streams of water.” (Ps. 1:3) “A good tree bears good fruit.” (Mt 7:17) ” Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2,3) And the list goes on and on. So, “bloom where you’re planted,” is not metaphorically defunct. The analogy is fine.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Introducing, Quite Possibly, Your Next Favorite Book

As the 2014 Classical Conversations Parent Practicum season nears its end, everybody and their brother have probably received their very own copy of the 2014 Classical Conversations catalog. CC hands them out like candy at the practicums. (If you don’t have one, visit to order one, or to save time, view the online catalog.) 

As we get our mitts on each year’s catalog, we might be tempted to flip through the pages and jump right to our areas of interest. I know I tend to do that with Challenge 1 and 2, because those are the Challenge programs that I tutor. Then later, I check out everybody else’s stuff and read the articles. Well, there’s another page near the beginning that doesn’t belong in anyone in particular, because it belongs to everyone reading the catalog (in fact, most of the catalog is not program specific), but the page I’m referring to specifically is page 10: the “Parent Resources” page.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rhetorical Hit, Theological Miss

In January 2013, Mary Elizabeth Williams posted a column at entitled, “So What If Abortion Ends Life?” The vitriolic nature of the piece prevails from the title to the final phrase, designed to enflame the most seasoned of post-Roe veterans on both sides of the debate. Her flippant handling of what’s often considered a sacred issue does its job. The article was low on fact and high on accusation, but it is still able to accomplish its goal of engendering strife and perhaps, even a little bit of nausea. However, as acerbic as the article is, Ms. Williams makes two salient points. The first is about the use of language in public debate and the second about the arbitrary philosophical distinction in the “life-begins-somewhere-other-than-conception” camp.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dewey’s Pragmatism vs. Poetic Knowledge

Here's a quote from James S. Taylor's Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education:

"[John] Dewey's so-called pragmatism, as it filtered down to the masses who largely never read a word he wrote, fit neatly into the American view of education for the good life. It was perfect, in its popular versions, for the American oligarchic man, that is, the practical businessman seeking not only to retain, but to increase his property and profits. Ideas were important to these descendants of the European industrial revolutions and the new notions of the wealth of nations, insofar as they worked toward increasing the common wealth of the country and the personal wealth of those practical and clever enough to succeed. The typical American businessman had no time for philosophy--he was smart enough to know it required real leisure--but he loved what he understood of pragmatism. Quite often the oligarchic man was honest, hardworking, and fair; he even might quote a poem or two he had memorized and enjoy reciting a verse on special occasions. But how could he ever see the use in pursuing a life of contemplation and leisure, since there was not "use" in these things anyway? And when the needs of oligarchic America begin to be felt in the schools and colleges, when schools themselves became more and more places where the "product" and "commodity" of education was "produced," then what there was of the poetic mode was assigned to the token English or humanities teacher, so that the students would have a practical sense of literature, history, and philosophy. Then, when schooling was finally over, the student could plunge into the "real world." (p. 102)
That's as far as I am into the book. This is not meant to be a review of the book, but the above quote seemed a great summary of Dewey's initiative and the resulting impact it's had on American education and culture. Here's a link to Matt Bianco's full review of Poetic Knowledge on his blog:
Buy the book here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rosie's Rainbow

My children regularly remind me that we are those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:2), which is good, because I often forget.

For example, a few weeks ago after a rain, my daughter, Rose, and I were strolling down our driveway on the way to Grandma's house. (She lives next door.) As we traveled east, the light from the sun setting behind us was broken down into a glorious arc of the visible spectrum, cast onto the sky before us. We were walking straight into an ever-increasingly visible rainbow. Instead of being suspended, it stood on the hills: two feet firmly planted on the horizon--a complete arc in between.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Narcissism Upside-Down

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.   Matthew 22:39
The greatest commandment: love God.
Next: your neighbor.
In what manner? Like you love yourself.
girl-looking-in-mirrorWe’re each at the center of our own universe. It does actually all revolve around us. No matter where we go, there we are. Relatively speaking, we’re all ubiquitous to ourselves.
 I can’t make a single decision without wondering WWID: What Would I Do?
I can’t speak a single word without wondering: What would I say?
I can’t eat a single meal without consulting my appetites, or make a single purchase without considering my desires.
We know how to love ourselves. In fact, if we hate ourselves, we go against the very course of nature. “No one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it.” (Eph 5:29)

C. S. Lewis and Winnie the Pooh

transcribed by Marc Hays

The following quote is taken from the lecture, “Shelf Life: Reading, Thinking and Resisting the Tyranny of the Urgent,” by Dr. George Grant, who granted permission for such a lengthy quote:

This afternoon, my talk is going to be, essentially, an exposition of a passage. I’ll read the passage first, and then, we’ll launch into the exposition therein.
pooh_99_“Well, I’ve got an idea,” said Rabbit, “and here it is. Look, we take Tigger for a long explore. Somewhere he’s never been. And then, we lose him there. And the next morning, we find him again. And mark my words, he’ll be a different Tigger altogether.”
“Why?” said Pooh.
“Because, he’ll be a humble Tigger; because he’ll be a sad Tigger; a melancholy Tigger; a small and sorry Tigger; and an ‘oh, Rabbit, I’m so glad to see you’ Tigger. That’s why.”
It’s a wonderful scene, isn’t it? Pooh and Rabbit talking about Tigger, who is always so… …pompous. Always so full of ideas.
You know, Pooh doesn’t have a brain, as he constantly reminds himself and everyone else. And Rabbit, well, he’s a bright one, but he’s small and he knows he’s small and he can’t dominate the world. Tigger, he’s even more pompous than Rabbit, because he knows so much. He’s so clever. He’s like an academic. So, Rabbit and Pooh come together to imagine a way to make Tigger more bearable. And they hatch this scheme that will somehow bring Tigger to a place of repentance.

When Are You Ever Going to Grow Up?

“When I became a man, I put away childish things…”

Norman-Rockwell-Taller_thumb2For decades, American culture has been pushing the threshold between childhood and adulthood further and further from birth. This is being done in the name of science, which supposedly is just analyzing the data and then reporting the facts. A myriad of professions, from psychiatrists to psychologists to neurologists to anthropologists, are making the claim that the period of “adolescence” continues to lengthen. As many of these professions are built on evolutionary assumptions, the data is often treated as though this is simply the way things are. Perhaps it is simply the next stage of human evolution; the next stage of progress being a state in which the human being no longer wants to progress.

Lily Stepped Out of the Boat

 This article was originally published in April 2013.

And ne’er shall April 10th go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remember’d. We few, we happy few, we band of home-schoolers. For he (or she) who competes in mock trial this day shall be my brother (or sister), be they ne’er so vile (or rather fearful), this day shall gentle their condition.  And other students in other tutorials will think themselves accursed they were not here. And hold their rhetorical skills cheap, whiles any speaks, who tried a case with us on April 10th.
Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top, but needless to say, yesterday was an amazing day.  Of all the rotations we make on God’s good earth as she hurdles around the sun, only a handful actually qualify for the statement, “I’ll never forget this day,” but yesterday was one of those days. Yesterday, my 13-year-old daughter, Lily, participated in a Classical Conversations mock trial held in the Justice A. A. Birch Building in Nashville, Tennessee, where the honorable Judge William E. Higgins presided.  But it wasn’t the ornate building, the friendly judge, the winning of the verdict, or the ice cream party afterwards that made the day unforgettable.  It was that Lily had something hard to do, and she did it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy: Quotes and Links

Here is the quote from G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy that we read at the CC Parent Practicum. I know it went by too quickly for many of you to write it down, so here it is in full.  Also, I have included some other quotes from the same book, as well as some links to follow if you'd like to become better acquainted with Mr. Chesterton. Most of work is found in the public domain, so it is free all over the place. All it will cost you is your time, which will be better spent reading Chesterton than many other writers. He has a logically imaginative way of thinking that is uncommon among men. I am always challenged, while at the same time encouraged by reading his work:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Power and Mystery of the Spoken Word

618px Eugen_Rosenstock HuessyEugen Rosenstock-Huessy was born in Berlin, Germany in July 1888. He received doctorates in law and philosophy from the University of Heidelberg. In 1917 he served as an officer in the German army and fought in the trenches of The Great War. Upon Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933, Rosenstock-Huessy immigrated to America, taking a position at Harvard, then later at Dartmouth College where he taught social philosophy until he retired in 1957. He died in 1973.

This being an internet blog post, you’re probably not planning on sitting here all day, so I’ll cut to the chase. The rest of the post will be a couple of quotes from Rosenstock-Huessy to set his flavor on your pallette, hopefully whetting your appetite for more. I’ll wrap it up with some thoughts about Rosenstock-Huessy by James B. Jordan.

This first quote is from his book, Magna Carta Latina: The Privilege of Singing, Articulating, and Reading a Language and of Keeping It Alive, which he co-wrote with Ford Lewis Battles, who translated and indexed Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can tell by the subtitle that this is not your average Latin grammar. The following quote is also a distillation of the second chapter of his book Speech and Reality.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How To Avoid Death-By-Eucharist

glass of wineGrowing up in a Southern Baptist church, I became accustomed to eating from the Lord’s Table once a quarter. The words of institution were read from 1 Corinthians 11, and the organ droned “Have Thine Own Way,” until everyone had been served. While the organ hummed we examined ourselves to see whether or not we should have been partaking at all. Most of us sat with heads bowed and eyes closed. (I know because I often got tired of examining myself and looked around hoping someone was doing something interesting.) Afterwards we left the auditorium in silence, not talking or fellowshipping until we had made our way into the outer hall. It was very respectful, for which I am thankful, and very somber, for which I am not.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Margaret Sanger – The 20th Century’s Public Enemy #1

Hitler? Nein. Stalin? Niet. Mussolini? Nope. Pol Pot? Mao Tse-tung? Not even close. This woman’s got them all beat. Her minions are responsible for more murderous, torturous, barbarous human deaths than all of those wretched men put together. Her name is Margaret Sanger. She was a villain, and the world sings her praises.

Dr. George Grant has published a biography of Margaret Sanger, Killer Angel, as well as given lectures, on the history of Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood. Here is an excerpt from one of those lectures:

“I wish that hindsight really were 20/20. If hindsight were really 20/20, then we would be able to look back on the late lamentable history of the twentieth century with the jaundiced eye that such a century deserves. The twentieth century was the bloodiest century of all of human history. The 20th Century saw governments kill their own people in astonishing numbers. More people died at the hands of their own governments in the 20th Century than in every other century combined. The 20th Century – the century of science and achievement; the century of unparalleled prosperity; the century of ideology; the century of fighting wars to end all wars –  was an horrific disaster. I wish that hindsight were 20/20, because then we wouldn’t make the silly sorts of judgements against things like the crusades, or the so-called “Dark Ages” or the inquisition that we do standing pompously as we do on our 20th and 21st Century soapboxes and denouncing earlier generations for things that we’ve done blown up on steroids.

My Mower, My Nemesis: A Tragic Poem for Guys

Every hero has his nemesis, a villain still unbeaten
As Batman has his Joker, (both Christian Bale and Michael Keaton.)
Superman, Lex Luthor; Spiderman, the Goblin Green
I even have a nemesis, mine’s a Craftsman lawn machine.

Dark Chocolate: A Table Fable

Dark Chocolate: A Table Fable

by Marc Hays
A naked Crust once covered
In sourdough or wheat,
Post feasting had recovered,
And recently discovered
A friend who also suffered:
A Bone who once wore meat.
Through suppertime attrition
They’d more than feelings hurt.
Both needing a physician,
With leery-eyed suspicion
Beheld the competition:
The final course–Dessert.
She knew her mousse was fluffy
And chocolate tan was dark.
Her whipping cream was puffy;
She thought she was hot-stuffy.
To everyone rebuffy,
And friendly as a shark.
The Eater poised and ready
With spoon split silken skin.
His progress slow and steady,
Reloaded, cocked, and ready,
For Dee-ssert Armageddy,
Completely did her in.
So, Crust and Bone sat blinking
Without a disconcert.
Her ship–they watched it sinking;
Her beauty–watched it shrinking;
And right now they’re still thinking,
“She got her just dessert.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

Adopted & Adopting

imageBefore adopting the triplets, we only had one daughter. Our solitary little girl, being surrounded by adults twenty-four hours a day, often acted more like an adult in a little body than a four-year-old. She wasn’t perfect, but she was an easy child to be around. Then, we adopted. Three 7-week-old babies entered our world in one day; our peaceful world of a single-child was gone; and things have been rocking ever since. Also, contributing to this was the fact that three years after adopting the triplets, my wife conceived and bore twins. In a period of three years, my household increased by 5 munchkins. So, there are eight of us: one dad, one mom, three boys, and three girls.
A couple of the things I have learned about myself as a father through the years since the adoption: 1.) I am a man, for good or for ill, and 2.) I am only one man, never more, never less.

My Dad in the Mirror

20140404-101508.jpgAbout five years ago, I was 35, which is the age my dad was when I was 6. When I was a kid, my dad would take pity on me during the lengthier sermons at church to entertain me. He would tuck his thumb inside his fingers and allow me to attempt to pry his fingers open, thereby freeing his thumb from its bonds. It seems like that could become a raucous game during the sermon, but I guess I knew better, because it never got out of hand. Speaking of out of hand, that was the goal, but I was never able to free his thumb out of hand either. What I did do was spend hours looking at his hand–memorizing his hand. Around the time I turned 35, I looked down and saw my father’s hands attached to the ends of my arms. It was both pleasant and startling. I was pleased because I love my dad and hope that I am becoming like him in more ways than just physically. It was startling because when I was six I thought my dad was pretty old, and there I was with hands showing the signs of 35 years of use.

This morning as I was leaving for work, I stopped in front of the mirror to see if any hairs on my head were sticking up in embarrassing directions, and I used my hands to resituate my hair into a somewhat presentable arrangement. As I wiped down the cowlicks, there stood my dad in the mirror, reorganizing his mop on top before he rushed off to work. It was just plain freaky. Added to the motions of my hands and arms resembling my dad, I realized that my hair lies on my head just as his hair lies on his head. Once again, I’m not complaining, just realizing that as I age I become more and more like him.

Carpe Symphoniam: Seize the Symphony

Last Friday night, I accompanied my Classical Conversations, Challenge 2 students and their parents to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tennessee, to hear the Nashville Symphony. The symphony orchestra, conducted by Christopher Seaman, performed three Mozart pieces, one of which was his 21st Piano Concerto, featuring Benedetto Lupo on the piano. It had been too long since I had experienced a live symphony orchestra, and, chances are, it has been too long for you as well. Even if you do not enjoy classical music, I think you should go. In fact, if you don’t like classical music, it is probably because it has been too long since you went to hear it be performed. Assuming that to be the case, I submit three reasons why it should not be very long until you attend a live symphony orchestra performing in their local concert hall. First, music is to be heard; second, music is to be seen; and third, music is to be felt.

Calvin Didn't Flinch

During my childhood years, my family lived in a 12’ x 55’ single-wide mobile home. When we bought it in 1980 it was already about 20 years old. The plan was to live in that home while my dad built a house on our property. Given the economic recession of the early 1980′s, we never built that house. As my brother, my sister, and I got older, and consequently larger, my dad closed in a front porch to create another bedroom. He completely remodeled the inside of the home over the 15 years that we lived there: drywall, trim, carpets–the whole nine yards. The exterior would occasionally get painted, the roof tarred, and the underpinning, which had rotted from ground contact, replaced. It was a lovely home, and I do not remember being particularly envious of my friends who had nicer homes than we did. However, that doesn’t mean that I was unaware that they had nicer homes than we did.

I can remember being 9 or 10 years old when I went to spend the night at a friend’s house from school. He lived with his family in a small brick ranch home. It couldn’t have been over 1000-1100 square feet, i.e., relatively small, but I remember being enamored by the fact that the house went all the way to the ground. This wonderful home had no underpinning; it had bricks. Its roof was not flat; it had a gable-ended roof with shingles on it. It seemed so sturdy. So strong. Once again, I was not beset by the fact that our home sat upon concrete blocks 2 feet above the ground with the resulting void between floor and earth being hidden by plywood, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t plan on living in a site-built home when I grew up.

I've Stopped Yelling. Can I Stop Scowling?

by Marc Hays

Over a year ago, I stopped yelling at my children. The urge to vent my displeasure became increasing distasteful until I could hear myself snap at them just before I did it. Whatever the child had done, whatever infraction had occurred, ceased to kindle my ire like the thought of hearing myself lash out at them.

Accompanying this conviction, my sin decreased. Go figure. It is encouraging to no end for a man to see that the deeds of his flesh can be mortified as Scripture says they must and for a man, alive in Christ, to experience the Holy Spirit at work, bearing good fruit on formerly dead limbs.

As my desire to shout the fear of God into my children waned, I found an increasing zeal to see my children flourish. Replacing the idle threats about their doom, should they fail to mend their ways, was an increase in instruction concerning righteousness and sin; wisdom and foolishness; repentance and forgiveness. I yell less, if at all, which is good, and instruct more, which is better still, but as with most virtues, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing.