Monday, February 28, 2011

Moving the World

Chesterton said that “We do not need a Church that moves with the world; we need a Church that will move the world.” He knew that it was a fallacy that people would ever flock to a church where nothing of substance is preached, where doctrine is avoided, where beliefs are kept quiet, where everything that happens inside the church apes what is happening outside. As he said, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

Christin’s Quote Book

  • Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand. – Unknown
  • The difference between the right word and a similar word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. – Mark Twain
  • Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness. – Jane Austen
  • It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind. – Jane Austen
  • He was a long stringy policeman, who flowed out of his uniform at odd spots, as if Nature, setting out to make a constable, had had a good deal of material left over which it had not liked to throw away but hardly seemed able to fit neatly into the general scheme. – P.G. Wodehouse, The Small Bachelor

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Worshiping in Community

The Fall into sin wreaked the peace we had with God. True worship was disrupted (and we should remember that worship is the context of life).The Church, however, is the place where we are restored and then sent out to live.

Every person, every family, has its trials and pains. We sometimes think our own difficulties are unparalleled but this kind of thinking would only indicate how little we get out and how shallow our knowledge of others really is. God calls us to live, and He calls us to live in the context of the community of His people. To the degree we forsake that assembly with our bodies or our hearts, our suffering will increase.

It’s in the covenant community where we are honed and polished. We learn to serve, and to be longsuffering. We learn to forgive and love. We learn how to deny ourselves and how to be blessed by others. In Acts 2, every day believers met together in the Temple courts, broke bread in one another’s homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.  Hebrews 3:13 suggests that many years later, Christians were still meeting daily.

God has placed His Church at the center and summit of the world. The Church is comprised of the people of God called out of the world into union with the crucified and risen Lord―as God’s people―His new humanity. The church is an outpost of heaven on earth: we are marked out by baptism in the Triune name, we gather around His Table to feast, and we declare our common faith in Jesus Christ, who is now seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords. The Lord Jesus Christ rules over all things for the sake of the Church (Eph. 1:22-23), which in turn exists for the sake of the world.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fear of Rejection

Someone wrote, commenting and asking: "Sometimes folks are afraid of being known because of fear of rejection. How do you grow if you are rejected due to your immaturities?" 

Relationships are inherently “risky,” if we mean by that, we might (or probably will) get hurt. In the context of the church community we have to remember that we’re a bit like a giant foster home comprised of all kind of people from all kinds of backgrounds. It’s not “me and all of them”; it just “us.” And all of us are sinners, full of insecurities that we’re trying to hide. People who are sinfully critical of others are, perhaps, the most insecure people of all. Without approving of their sinful criticism, we should see this and feel some pity for them. Perhaps they’re the very ones who fear putting themselves “out there,” so they retreat to the grandstands where they can see what everyone else is doing wrong. They too need our unconditional love.

When we live among sinners we are going to be sinned against. God put us in this community of sinners, where He know we would be sinned against, and He did so because He knew that it was in this context that we would learn things we could not learn in any other way. Of course, He also knew that we would sin against others. So, in the community there are many opportunities for repentance, longsuffering, and forgiveness. Moreover, we not only will sin and be sinned against, we will also grow and help others grow. We will be genuinely cared for as we genuinely care for others. We cannot wait for “them” to do right first, we are called to take the initiative. (Of course they are also called to take the initiative but right now we’re talking about us.)

One observation about the concern over “people talking about us.” Such talking can (and often is) sinful. Gossip is a sin. On the other hand, it is appropriate for us to talk about the others in our community as we seek to learn from them, both positively and negatively. We all do this. We see thinks we like in others and we comment on the fact that their behavior is admirable or that we want to be more like them. At other times we see ugly things in others and we make note of those and we might say to our spouse that such behavior was rude or disrespectful, etc. and that we don’t want that to be a part of our family. The point here is that some “talking about others” is appropriate and helpful.

It is wisdom to go slow in opening ourselves up to others. Trust is essential and trust usually comes by degrees. It also comes by spending time with people, even in more casual settingssettings where we can observe them interacting with others. It is unwise, even foolish, to expose ourselves to someone who is careless or malicious, but again, if we are part of the community with them and they are acting in such sinful ways, we also have an obligation to lovingly confront them about such behavior. In the community (i.e., the broad family), we all make constant decisions about how close or how cautious we need to be with the various individuals in our circle.

To be unknown and loved is to be partially loved. To be fully known and loved is to be fully loved; that’s the goal. When we are both known and loved we are secure. The one who loves us will not learn something tomorrow that will cause them to stop loving us. God knows us fully and He loves us fully. We must be imitators of God toward others. Life is risky; community is risky; but God wants us to take risks. No pain, no gain. The nature of love involves risk. If you live long enough you will lose most, if not everything, you love in this world. It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cliques and Cloisters (part 2)

The second form of isolation that undermines community is individual isolation; the cloistered person. Now some people are naturally shy or quiet and therefore find it easy or “natural” to withdraw from the group. What’s needed, however, is the “supernatural” work of the Spirit. Self-denial and following Christ requires us to set aside some of our “natural tendencies,” and put others first. We have an individual obligation and duty to love and serve others. As Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

It’s even possible to be “present” with the Body but “absent” in spirit; present but not participating. We can sit and wait for others to move or else we can seek opportunities to minister to the community. Real humility puts others first; false humility is full of self-pity and loves being a martyr; poor me. Some cloister themselves for fear of being known, which can be risky. Yet, until we are known by others we cannot grow; we’re protecting or hiding the very areas where we need to be matured in Christ. Others cloister themselves because they really don’t want to know others. If we don’t know them then we feel free to ignore them and we have no sense of obligation to minister to them. All of this destroys community; a community that God says we need if we are to grow in grace.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cliques and Cloisters (part 1)

Community can be (and often is) undermined by several things, including two kinds of isolation. First, there is group isolation, or what is commonly called a “clique.” Second, there is individual isolation; the cloistered person who hangs out with himself. Both forms of isolation are destructive to the community and to the isolated persons. Let’s consider them one at a time.

The clique usually forms spontaneously but not necessarily self-consciously. As the old cliché puts it, “Birds of a feather flock together.” This is understandable, since we’re naturally attracted to people who we see as being most like us. Friends like their friends. Other associations emerge from social class, work relationships, school, hobbies, sports, age, etc. On the face of it, these associations are not wrong. In fact, they offer many healthy and appropriate benefits that are blessings from God. The problem for the community emerges when these associations grow increasingly exclusive. Perhaps this exclusivity does not happen intentionally, nevertheless, if there is not a self-conscious effort to guard against it, inertia sets in and the gravity of human nature takes over.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us: “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Rom. 12:16). As members of the Body of Christ, we are members with every other member of the Body. Thus, we have obligations and duties toward all of them, and not simply toward a select group within the Body. God Himself adds to the Church and He brings particular people to be a part of us because we have something to learn from every one. Each member has both assets and liabilities and we are called to minister to the liabilities and also to benefit from the assets. We are to both serve and be served as fellow members. All the “one another” passages call us to a broad community involvement and commitment.

“Love one another” (John 13:34-35); “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom. 12:10); “Be of the same mind toward one another.” (Rom. 12:16); “edify one another.” (Rom. 14:19); be like-minded toward one another, and  receive one another” (Rom. 15:5-7); “admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14); “Greet one another” (Rom. 16:16); “have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25); “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13); “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2); “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32); “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:18-21); “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” (Col. 3:12-16); “comfort each other” (1 Thess. 5:11); “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:12-13); “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24-25); “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16); “have compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9); “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:8-10).

Tomorrow we will consider those who cloister themselves.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grist for the Mill

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” ―Proverbs 27:17

Two or more fellows on one ship; that’s the definition of fellowship. People living in close quarters together and learning how to get along; that’s community. For too many, church is a club or a convention or simply an event. It’s a preaching station or, perhaps, a filling station; a spectator sport or a means of entertainment. All of these ideas fall short of the biblical ideal of the Body of Christ, which is organic, dynamic and vital. It’s possible to put on our “Sunday best,” attach a smile, glide in and glide out, and miss the point.

God puts us together to live together. Living together is hard work. It’s sometimes painful. It’s risky to expose ourselves; to be known. Yet, to be known and loved at the same time is a great blessing. God knows us perfectly and He still loves us. When we only expose our “good side,” and are never seen for who we really are, we must remain hidden people who can’t experience the depth of Christ’s love that comes through His church. Instead, we have to pretend, cover-up, and retreat.

The whole purpose of being in a community is for our growth and sanctification; the place where we are gradually conformed to the image of Christ. God puts us in a community of fellow sinners who are also being transformed into the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit uses the guy next to us to transform us and the family across the room to teach us and to hone us. Sometimes, that guy irritates us so that God might teach us longsuffering. That other family shows us something admirable or something unattractive to instruct us to be more or less like them. As we get to really know others, we have opportunities to serve as we are being served, and in both instances we grow. Conflicts inevitably arise, and we have to learn about love, and repentance, and forgiveness and grace. In a community (when we are really a part of it), we learn about doing our duty to God and our neighbors; to give, to labor and to sacrifice. To be part of the Body of Christ means I am less “me” and more “we.” I become the grist in God’s mill whereby He transforms me into something good and useful. True community is a humbling experience and humility is a necessary virtue. It’s the antithesis to the cardinal vice of pride.

Are you really a vital part of the community or simply a pretender? Are your playing church or are you actually one of the living stones that make up the church? Are you a “parameter member, sitting on the edge, observing or criticizing but not really jumping in? Have you only dipped your toe in or waded in up to your ankles, or have you plunged into the deep end and become fully immersed in the place where God will transform you and use you for His glory?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fitting In

It is common to hear some church members complain that they just don’t “fit in,” and they are usually right. The question is, why don’t they fit in?” Are they expecting everyone else to conform to their likes and dislikes; their personal agendas; their private culture? In order to be part of anything (e.g., a friendship, a family, a club, a church, etc.), there has to be far more give than take. While it is possible that everyone else is to blame e.g., they’re not friendly, they’re cliquish, they think they’re better than me, etc., it’s just as likely (perhaps more likely), that the problem lies with the person who doesn’t fit in. Fitting in can be hard work. It will probably mean having to sacrifice for others, being hospitable, fully participating in the community events, resolving conflicts, being open to other ways of doing things, not expecting everyone else to conform to their own way of seeing the world. When we commit ourselves to be a part of the Body of Christ, we must find a way to fit in, to find our place of service, and to fulfill our duty to Him and to His people. Dedicated, sacrificing, people almost always fit in; they don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves. They derive a joy from serving others for Christ’s sake.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Private Life

There is a sense in which it is appropriate for us to be private people. Unfortunately, this can become an excuse for a person to remain “private” when, in fact, God requires them to be public. Worship, fellowship, service, prayer, confession, labor, and much more demand a sort of public exposure. In genuine community we must be seen, and we must be seen beyond the veneer. We all possess many insecurities and we all spend a great deal of our time and energy covering up those insecurities. Yet the work of sanctification involves changing, growing and maturing i.e., becoming like Jesus Christ. This is how we overcome those insecurities. It has pleased God to place His people in local churches along with other redeemed sinners to work that work. In addition to the word and sacraments, the Holy Spirit uses real people to affect those changes; they are His instruments. It’s in the day-to-day real life relationships that our faith is tested, we are instructed, and we have the opportunities to put our faith into practice; and we know that practice makes perfect.

Being part of the community is not a spectator sport; it requires full participation. Anonymity is not an option, though many have learned how to get lost in a crowd. When we try to live in the community in a superficial mannerwhen we try to fly below the radar, never truly knowing or being knownthen we can neither love nor be loved. We must come out of hiding and be exposed.

Christin’s Quote Book

  • The word "genius" isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein. – Joe Theisman
  • He trusted neither of them as far as he could spit, and he was a poor spitter, lacking both distance and control. – P. G. Wodehouse
  • Marilyn Monroe was good at being inarticulately abstract for the same reason midgets are good at being short. – Clive James
  • "Skepticism," is that anything more than we used to mean when we said, "Well, what have we here?" – Robert Frost
  • You're never too old to learn something stupid. – Unknown

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Community and Self-Denial

In order to truly be part of a communitya communionwe must first deny ourselves and learn to live in terms of others; to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Just as God is longsuffering toward us we will have to be longsuffering toward others. We will have to “put up with” irritations, differences and sinfulness, not thinking too highly of ourselves  and associating with the lowly (Rom. 12:3, 16). 

To live in community is to supply the Body; to give, to sacrifice and to love (Eph. 4:16). As a result, the whole Body is built up (i.e., matured), and then every individual is benefitted by the stronger, more mature Body. Being part of the communion is first about what we can contribute, and when we have contributed, we will also receive. The question is not first, “What’s in it for me?” Rather, we should be asking, “What can I put into it that will make it a better place for everyone to live?” “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Spirit of the Place

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. ―Ephesians 4:1-5

Living in a community means being part of a place and a place has a definite spirit. The spirit of the place is determined by its commonalities. When our faith in Jesus Christ and what He teaches genuinely provides that common foundation, there is union and unity―a common union―a communion. As we grow in our common faith, we are knit together as individuals into a body. As the Apostle Paul puts it, we “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).

Living in true community is difficult because sinners are difficult. Nevertheless, most things worth doing are difficult. It is possible to be “member” of the community and yet fail to be a true member of the communion. We can show up from time to time, and even put on the happy face, but if we fail to invest ourselves or refuse to expose ourselves we have only the illusion of a common union while avoiding the reality of true love and sacrifice.

Friday, February 18, 2011

By the Babe Unborn

In this poem G.K. Chesterton portrays a baby sequestered in the dark womb, trying to imagine the world outside, which for him is only a dream. But what if that baby could actually enter that world―to see it and live in it? His gratitude would be without limitations. We are babies who have had our dream fulfilledwe’re alive in God’s amazing worldare we grateful?

If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,

If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.

In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.

Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.

They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Art Touches the Eternal

We are trying to get to heaven. That’s what life is about, and that’s what any good story is about. Every story begins with Creation and ends with the Last Judgment. Every author is trying to achieve the Incarnation, trying to make the Word into flesh. Every author puts his characters to the test. There is always an adversary that has to be overcome. Evil will always seem to have the upper hand and will appear to triumph. Ultimately, however, good will prevail, but not without sacrifice. The object of Incarnation is Crucifixion. The object of Crucifixion is Resurrection. But you cannot get to Easter morning unless you go through the Agony in the Garden and the Death on the Cross. Every author who has mastered the craft of storytelling will give us a taste, a hint of these eternal truths. All art touches the eternal.

Dale Ahlquist, Common Sense 101

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Holy Material Universe

Gnostic sins have been present since the Fall and still emanate from human nature. Men have sought to separate the spiritual from the material to enable a justification of his sins in the flesh while maintaining his self-righteousness in the spirit. But God made both the spirit and the flesh and He sent His Son into the world to prove it. Man's problem is not the material world, it's his abuse of the material world. When we view the world rightly, the world declares the glory of God. It is man's graffiti and garbage that have littered the material world with filth and stench and it is the calling of the Church to clean up the mess and restore its beauty in Christ. "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now." ―Romans 8:19-22

Dorothy Sayers captures the idea:

"She [the Church] must insist strongly that the whole material universe is an expression and incarnation of the creative energy of God, as a book or a picture is the material expression of the creative soul of the artist.

For this very reason, all good and creative handling of the material universe is holy and beautiful, and all abuse of the material universe is a crucifixion of the body of Christ. The whole question of the right use to be made of art, of the intellect, and of the material resources of the world is bound up in this. Because of this, the exploitation of man or of matter for commercial uses stands condemned, together with all debasement of the arts and perversions of the intellect.

If matter and the physical nature of man are evil, or if they are of no importance except as they serve an economic system, then there is nothing to restrain us from abusing them as we choose—nothing, except the absolute certainty that any such abuse will eventually come up against the unalterable law and issue in judgment and destruction. In these as in all other matters we cannot escape the law; we have only the choices of fulfilling it freely by the way of grace or willy-nilly by the way of judgments."

[Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos, pp.50-51]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Marriage and Incompatibility

In everything on this earth that is worth doing, there is a stage when no one would do it, except for necessity or honor. It is then that the Institution upholds a man and helps him on to the firmer ground ahead. This is a solid fact of human nature. . . . It is amply sufficient to justify the general human feeling of marriage as a fixed thing. . . . The essential element is not so much duration as security. Two people must be tied together in order to do themselves justice; for twenty minutes at a dance, or for twenty years in a marriage. In both cases the point is, that if a man is bored in the first five minutes he must go on and force himself to be happy. Coercion is a kind of encouragement; and anarchy (or what some call liberty) is essentially oppressive, because it is essentially discouraging. If we all floated in the air like bubbles, free to drift anywhere at any instant, the practical result would be that no one would have the courage to begin a conversation. It would be so embarrassing to start a sentence in a friendly whisper, and then have to shout the last half of it because the other party was floating away into the free and formless ether. The two must hold each other to do justice to each other. If Americans can be divorced for “incompatibility of temper” I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.
G.K. Chesterton

Monday, February 14, 2011

To My Valentine

Beautiful bride, what a marvelous gift,
Bringing both life and a perpetual lift.
Loving lover and faithful spouse,
Selfless servant, the heart of our house.
An artful artist and a diligent soul.
A virtuous woman that I gladly extol.

I’m way too accustomed and use to your grace,
Your goodness and kindness fill up my space.
You make my life easy, a delightful ride,
Everything’s smoother with you by my side.
A covenant companion all the days of my life,
What a blessing to have such an incredible wife.

I love you!

Falling in Love

G.K. Chesterton’s description of himself when he first fell in love should sound somewhat familiar to anyone who has ever fallen in love. He said he awoke in the morning, washed his boots in hot water, put shoe polish on his face, put his coat on backwards, went to breakfast and poured hot coffee on the sardines, and put his hat on the fire to boil. And when he left the house by way of the chimney, his family figured out that something was on his mind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tossing Them Out

Dale Ahlquist writes:

We could start this process, the process of bringing common sense back to education, by tossing out Darwin, Marx, and Freud, and all their minions, or studying them solely for the purpose of finding out what the enemy is up to.

Each of them took not so much a half-truth as a hundredth part of a truth, and then offered it not merely as something, but as everything. Having never done anything except split hairs, [each of them] hangs the whole world on a single hair [whether it be biology, economics, or psychology]. . . . It is yet another mark of this sort of agnostic that he is ready to assert his absolute knowledge of everything to the verge of a contradiction in terms. Just as he will always try to write a history of prehistoric man, so he will always struggle to be conscious of his own unconsciousness. . . . Just as it is the latest fad to prove that everything is sexual, so it was the last fad to prove that everything was economic. The Marxist notion, called the materialist theory of history, had the same sort of stupid self-confidence in its very insufficient materialism. As the one fad conceives everything about the bird to be connected with mating, so the other conceived everything connected with it to consist of catching worms. . . . These fads fade very fast, and it may seem hardly worth while to prick bubbles that will burst of themselves. Nevertheless, there is one consideration that makes it worth while. It is a character of all these manias that they cannot really convince the mind, but they do cloud it. Above all, they do darken it. All these tremendous and rather temporary discoveries have had the singular fascination that they were not merely degrading, but were also depressing. Each in turn leaves no trace on the true and serious conclusions of the world. But each in turn may leave very deep and disastrous wounds and dislocations in the mentality of the individual man.

…instead of finding forgiveness for our sins, sins that we committed through our own fault, we get the most amazing psycho-babble, wrapped in the mantle of science, which explains that our sins are not sins, and whatever it was we did, it wasn’t our fault. It was our parent’s fault, or our teacher’s fault, or simply nature’s fault. The evil perpetuated by this sort of counseling is twofold: we become less responsible for our sinful actions even while we long for a forgiveness that never comes. It is the marriage of Freud and Darwin, of one pseudo-science to another.

Marx, and Freud, each of whom rejected Christianity, gave us theories that have been used to promote some of history’s most unnatural and degrading attacks against human dignity. If we want to rescue education—and our society—we can start by kicking these three bad boys out of school, and letting God back in. We need to take away the State’s power and give it back to the parents. And we need to get rid of the fads and fashions in education and start teaching the permanent things. As Chesterton says, “Teach, to the young, men’s enduring truths, and let the learned amuse themselves with their passing errors.”  [Common Sense 101]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Darwin, Marx, and Freud

Dale Ahlquist writes:

The basic cause of all the problems in modern education can be summarized in three words: Darwin, Marx, and Freud. The theories of these three men have pervaded all of modern thought. Their ideas are much alike in that they are narrow, materialistic, fatalistic, and utterly anti-Christian. Their influence has been felt far beyond their limited fields. Darwin’s ideas have contributed to a blind belief in progress.

They have also served as the justification for cutthroat capitalism and the survival-of-the-fittest mentality in our commercial and political relations. Marx’s ideas plunged half the world into darkness for most of the last century, but in the other half of the world they have served as the justification for the extended growth of the State and the loss of the authority of the family and the centrality of the home. And Freud’s ideas have led to an overemphasis on sex and have served as the justification for the normalizing of the abnormal, and the pervasive decline in morality. The academic community’s utter sellout to these three figures has elevated science, economics, and psychology above religion. In fact, all of these three have been invoked to explain away religion. Chesterton says that the primary public duty before us today is “not to educate the uneducated but to uneducate the educated”. [Common Sense 101]

Friday, February 11, 2011

From Greater to Smaller

Dale Ahlquist writes:

“The human house”, says Chesterton, “is a paradox for it is larger inside than out.” When we step out of the home, when we pass from private life to public life, we are passing from a greater work to a smaller one, and from a harder work to an easier one. And that is why most modern people wish to pass from the great domestic task to the smaller and easier commercial one. They would rather be in the business world serving the minor needs of a hundred different people than meeting all the major needs of just one person, which includes serving meals, conversation, and moral support. They would rather teach a course in trigonometry to a hundred children than struggle with the whole human character of one child. Chesterton says that anyone “who makes himself responsible for one small baby, as a whole, will soon find that he is wrestling with gigantic angels and demons”. [Common Sense 101]

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Dale Ahlquist writes:

It is the great paradox of the modern world that at the very time when the world decided that people should not be coerced about their form of religion, it also decided that they should be coerced about their form of education. I think our coercive popular education has been uncommonly near a complete failure. Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not an education at all. The truth is that the modern world has committed itself to two totally different and inconsistent conceptions about education. It is always trying to expand the scope of education; and always trying to exclude from it all religion and philosophy. But this is sheer nonsense.

…It is perfectly obvious—it is common sense—that we cannot have a system that claims to provide a complete education, and then leave out theology and religion. But that is precisely what we have. We pour money into education because education is the answer to everything. The more education the better, except, of course, if it includes theology. [Common Sense 101]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eternal Reference Point

Dale Ahlquist writes:

What common sense through the ages tells us is that most people have this simple basic desire: to have a happy family and a happy home. Chesterton says that “just now there is a tendency to forget that the school is only a preparation for the home, and not the home a mere jumping off place for the school”. As is so often the case in the modern world, we have things exactly backward. In the process of turning our children over to the public education system, we have turned our backs on the home and the family. And we have somehow mislaid the primary purpose of going to school. The one thing that is never taught by any chance in the atmosphere of public schools is this: that there is a whole truth of things, and that in knowing it and speaking it we are happy. According to Chesterton, the whole point of education is that it should give a person a set of standards, eternal standards that can be used to judge fugitive standards. We have this backward, too. Our schools change their standards more often than they change the light bulbs. The modern mind cannot make up its mind. It has no eternal philosophy, no eternal reference point. [Common Sense 101]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Common Sense 101

I have been reading (on my new Kindle) an outstanding book about G.K. Chesterton: Common Sense 101, by Dale Ahlquist. Ahlquist is the president of the American Chesterton Society and creator and host of the television series, G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense. In addition to the witty and profound quotes from Chesterton, Ahlquist is an insightful and brilliant writer in his own right. I intend to draw excerpts from the chapter on “Public Education,” for several blog posts, quoting from both Chesterton and Ahlquist.

I should point out that I understand we all have difficult choices to make when it comes to the education of our children and that there are usually no easy answers. Our current choices are often less than ideal. The zeitgeist [i.e., spirit of the age], drives much of the discussion and the Church has provided little leadership. I am more concerned that we step back and evaluate our theology and philosophy of education since it is our ideas that produce the consequence. The only turf that should be defended is God’s, and it’s our duty to discover exactly what and where that turf is, even if we must change our minds and our practices. Perhaps future generations will have better options.

A few random quotes from Chesterton and Ahlquist:

  •  “The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their common sense.” ―Chesterton
  • “To say that the moderns are half-educated may be too complimentary by half.” ―Ahlquist
  • “Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural.” ―Chesterton
  • “The Darwinian will not condescend to argue with you. He will inform you of your ignorance; he will not enlighten your ignorance.” ―Ahlquist
  •  “People who pretend to be impartial are always partial.” ―Chesterton

Monday, February 7, 2011

Christin’s Quote Book

  • By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day. Robert Frost
  • Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't. – Erica Jong
  • Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy. – Sir Isaac Newton
  • A person who has many friends either has a lot of money or is a good listener. – H. L. Mencken
  • If you want to be witty, work on your character and say what you think on every occasion. – Marie-Henri Boyle Stendhal

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vigorous Reaction

"Let us, in Heaven's name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction."

Dorothy Sayers

Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Two States of Being

"There are only two states of being: submission to God and goodness or the refusal to submit to anything beyond one's own willwhich refusal automatically enslaves one to the forces of evil. We must ultimately either belong to God of the devil. This paradox was, of course, expressed by Christ when he said, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it."… As C.S. Lewis put it, "There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan."

[M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie, p. 83]

I was reminded of the simple but profound lyrics of an old Bob Dylan song:

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody

Friday, February 4, 2011

Disguising Evil

"Since the primary motive of the evil is disguise, one of the places evil people are most likely to be found is within the church. What better way to conceal one's evil from oneself, as well as from others, than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture? In India I would suppose that the evil would demonstrate a similar tendency to be "good" Hindus or "good" Moslems. I do not mean to imply that the evil are anything other than a small minority among the religious or that the religious motives of most people are in any way spurious. I mean only that evil people tend to gravitate towards piety for the disguise and concealment it can offer them."

[Martin Buber, Good and Evil, p. 111]

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Unsubmitted Will

"Malignant narcissism is characterized by an unsubmitted will. All adults who are mentally healthy submit themselves one way or another to something higher than themselves, be it God or truth or love or some other ideal. They do what God wants them to do rather than what they would desire. "Thy will, not mine, be done," the God-submitted person says. They believe in what is true rather than what they would like to be true….In summary, to a greater or lesser degree, all mentally healthy individuals submit themselves to the demands of their own conscience. Not so the evil, however. In the conflict between their guilt and their will, it is the guilt that must go and the will that must win."

"The reader will be struck by the extraordinary willfulness of evil people. They are men and women of obviously strong will, determined to have their own way. There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others."

[M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie, p. 78]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Avoiding Guilt

"…What distinguishes the evil, however, from the rest of us mentally ill sinners is the specific type of pain they are running away from. They are not pain avoiders or lazy people in general. To the contrary, they are likely to exert themselves more than most in their continuing effort to obtain and maintain an image of high respectability. They may willingly, even eagerly, undergo great hardships in their search for status. It is only one particular kind of pain they cannot tolerate: the pain of their own conscience, the pain of the realization of their own sinfulness and imperfection."

"…If the central defect of the evil is not one of conscience, then where does it reside? The essential psychological problem of human evil, I believe, is a particular variety of narcissism."

[M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie, p. 77]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feeling Perfect

In my 1-30-11 blog post I mentioned that the Bible describes some people as "wicked," or "evil." In my 26 years of pastoring I have met a few of these people; perhaps you have a well. On the face of it, such people don't make sense. I mean, why do they do the things they do? How can people be so vicious, heartless and cruel? The next few posts will offer some thoughts on this matter.

"We come now to a sort of paradox. I have said that evil people feel themselves to be perfect. At the same time, however, I think they have an unacknowledged sense of their own evil nature. Indeed, it is this very sense from which they are frantically trying to flee. The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness. Rather than blissfully lacking a sense of morality, like the psychopath, they are continually engaged in sweeping the evidence of their evil under the rug of their own consciousness….The problem is not a defect of conscience but the effort to deny the conscience its due. We become evil by attempting to hide from ourselves. The wickedness of the evil is not committed directly, but indirectly as a part of this cover-up process. Evil originates not in the absence of guilt but in the effort to escape it.

It often happens, then, that the evil may be recognized by its very disguise. The lie can be perceived before the misdeed it is designed to hide—the cover-up before the fact. We see the smile that hides the hatred, the smooth and oily manner that masks the fury, the velvet glove that covers the fist. Because they are such experts at disguise, it is seldom possible to pinpoint the maliciousness of the evil. The disguise is usually impenetrable. But what we can catch are glimpses of "The uncanny game of hide-and-seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself."

[M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie, p. 76]