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By In Culture, Family and Children, Film, Humor, Wisdom

On Crude Humor

Author Remy Wilkins is a teacher at Geneva Academy.
His first novel Strays is available from Canon Press

“You wouldn’t hit a man with glasses would ya?”
“No, of course not. I’d hit him with a bat.”

In our culture of frivolity it is tempting for Christians to think that solemnity should be our defining attribute. The coarseness of the world impedes us from enjoying an y sort of sexual or bodily function jokes because we do not want to be guilty of approving that which is sinful. Even though we know that the bed is undefiled and the body is good, and are therefore free to enjoy those aspects of life in humor, we are stunted in our ability to appreciate them due to the folly and poor taste of our age.

So while we are not to be characterized by coarse jesting, we must learn to distinguish jokes that laud wickedness (the ribaldry forbidden in Ephesians) from those jokes that merely highlight the glorious and comedic world. We cannot merely clam up and play it safe, throwing out the good jokes with the bad. If we are to be characterized by joy then we must be leaders in laughter, but Humor is not a tame lion. It is invasive, subversive and mysterious. It is hard to determine where it is anchored, whether it mocks or praises, and what it is standing with or against.

For this reason many hedge their laughter, guard their mirth like an untrustworthy servant. There is a temerity that would rather not laugh at something funny than to laugh at something sinful. So how can we train our minds to laugh wisely? (more…)

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By In Culture, Scribblings, Theology

a poem for advent

E. E. Cummings

 

maybe god

is a child
‘s hand)very carefully
bring
-ing
to you and to
me(and quite with
out crushing)the

papery weightless diminutive (more…)

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By In Culture, Family and Children

Recipes and readings for Advent (1)

One of our members at Emmanuel in London, Lucie Brear, has compiled a fantastic collection of recipes and suggested Scripture readings for advent. If you want to discover a traditional English way to prepare for Christmas, then just read on! I’ll post them here one week at a time. Here’s the first:

Stir Up Sunday

The first Sunday before advent, which this year fell on November 26th, is traditionally known as Stir Up Sunday, when families gather together to mix and steam the Christmas pudding.

The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer:

“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Christmas pudding would traditionally contain 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples. Practically, stirring the mixture is hard work, so as many family members as possible join in the task. The pudding mixture is stirred from East to West in honour of the Magi (three wise men) who visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The customary garnish of holly represents the crown of thorns.

Most recipes for Christmas pudding require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated on Christmas day – but even though Stir Up Sunday has passed, there’s still plenty of time to prepare your pudding. You may even want to follow this traditional Victorian recipe, made with shredded beef suet.

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By In Culture, Family and Children, Film, Politics, Wisdom

Bombadil at Home

When it comes to what the Bible means by taking dominion Tom Bombadil comes to mind for me; but I think what comes to mind for most people looks a lot more like Saruman.

If you’re a reader of Lord of the Rings, you understand those references. But if you’ve only seen the films, you probably didn’t–at least not the reference to Bombadil.

Poor Bombadil, what’s he in the story for anyway? (Peter Jackson, the director of the films thought he was expendable.) That whole episode in the Old Forest before the hobbits get to Bree seems like a senseless detour. Was Tolkien dallying? Was it just a bit of comic relief?

I don’t think so. Tolkien worked with texts professionally and he doesn’t strike me as the sort of person to do something on a whim. He was fussy.

I’m a writer in my own small way, and even I know that something that can’t be made to fit should be thrown out.

Either that, or you leave it in because it is somehow a way to underscore the point if the thing.

What’s the point?

There are many things like this in the world: the Sabbath, (what’s the point?), beauty, (what’s the point?), higher education, (what’s the point?).

When it comes to those things some people edit them right out of their lives. Or perhaps worse, they repurpose them to make them fit our restless, ugly, and benighted lives.

I think Saruman missed the point of life in Middle Earth. That’s why he tried to repurpose what he found there.

This was the reason he was interested in the lore of Middle Earth. He wanted power, ostensibly to save Middle Earth from Sauron. But in the process he became Sauron’s slave.

In order to acquire this lore, many eggs had to be cracked and his interrogations were torturous. That’s why Gandalf said to him, “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”

Saruman thought he could save Middle Earth by dominating it.

But Bombadil just lived there. That’s why he was truly the master.

The word dominion has a fascinating provenance. It’s from the Latin, domus, for house. It is where were get the words: domestic and domicile. And those words never alarm people. But say, dominion, and your mind immediately runs on to domination.

But really, should it?

And this brings me to Bombadil. Just who is this guy? Tolkien didn’t say.

But in The Fellowship of the Ring, in chapter a chapter entitled: In the House of Tom Bombadil (the seventh chapter, by the way), we have Frodo, and the other hobbits wondering the same thing.

And Frodo asks, “Who is Tom Bombadil?” And this is the answer he receives:

“He is, “ said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.

Frodo looked at her questioningly.

“He is as you have seen him,” she said in answer to his look. “He is the master of wood, water and hill.”

“Then this strange land belongs to him?”

“No indeed!” she answered, and her smile faded. “That would indeed be a burden,” she added in a low voice, as if to herself. “The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has caught old Tom…. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master.”

Goldberry is Tom’s fairy-like wife that he received as a gift from the Withywindle–like a similar gift received my another man, long ago.

But unlike that man, or Saruman for that matter, Tom’s mastery is of a different kind than the kind sought by those men. We’re told that he knows the songs. I think that means he knows the natures of things. And his mastery preserves those natures. I think that can be seen in Tom’s rescues of the hobbits. And each time he comes singing the songs that set things right, not as a conqueror. (I’ve written more about that here.)

That’s real dominion for you. It is a very different sort of dominion we see in other deliverers. Whether the deliverer goes by the name Adam, or Bacon, or Saruman, we can know one thing, the sort of dominion they seek is unnatural.

But Bombadil, the funny fellow with the nonsense songs and the yellow boots, we can be sure that he’s on our side. And even though he looks clumsy, he’s graceful enough to flick individual raindrops away from his head in a downpour. He’s the master.

Fathers, when it comes to dominion in your houses be like Bombadil.

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By In Books, Culture, Film, Interviews, Wisdom

Author Interview: Steven R Turley, PhD

Dr. Steve Turley teaches Theology, Greek, and Rhetoric at Tall Oaks Classical School, and he also is a professor of Aesthetics, Music and World Cultures at Eastern University, a co-educational, comprehensive Christian university in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, fifteen miles northwest of Philadelphia. He also writes and hosts the Turley Talks podcast and is an accomplished classical guitarist.

Dr. Turley has a recent publication available that posits the question: What if, instead of watching Christian movies, we cultivated the practice of learning to recognize biblical themes and symbology in films in general? (more…)

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By In Books, Culture

The Not So Clean Sea Breeze of the Centuries

There is a glorious reformation happening right now in education called Classical and Christian Education. As a teacher in a Classical and Christian school, I am thankful to be a part of this important work. But at the same time, I see temptations that the movement is prone to. One of those dangers is what I would call reverse chronological snobbery. C.S. Lewis (whom I will talk about in a moment) coined the term chronological snobbery and he used it to talk about the fallacious argument which claims that something from an earlier time (e.g. philosophy, literature, etc) is inherently worse than that of the present, simply because it is from the past. There is also an inverse version of this fallacy (some would call it by the same name) which would claim that something from the past (e.g. philosophy, literature, etc) is inherently better than that of the present, simple because it is from the past. Both claims are incredibly dangerous but it is this second error that is particularly tempting to Classical and Christian schools. This error is tempting because the movement has purposefully shifted its gaze back to the past and is trying to bring the best of the past forward. The difficulty lies then in recovering the best of the past without bringing the worst along with it.

In a wonderful essay by C.S. Lewis “On Reading Old Books,” he argues that we need to read old books because they can help us correct mistakes in the thinking of the modern era. We can see things more clearly in older thinkers because they are further away from us. One of the difficulties of our age is that we live in it. It is like we are standing in a forest and trying to see which parts of the forest are good and which parts are dead and dying. Inside the forest, we can see individual trees but it is almost impossible to see large sections of the forest. But if we were out of the forest and looking at it from a distance, it becomes much easier. Distance gives us perspective.

At one point in the essay, Lewis offers a poetic argument for reading these old works: “The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”[1] This is a wonderful and persuasive image that he employs but it is incredibly easy to overemphasize the palliative nature of these old works. The sea breeze of the centuries is not always so clean.

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By In Culture, Theology, Worship

Does ‘Sola Scriptura’ Mean What You Think It Means?

“This is the only book I need,” says the evangelical, holding up his Bible. “We don’t recite creeds at my church,” says another, pointing to hers. Anyone who has spent much time in low-church Protestant circles will be familiar with these Bible-only sentiments. But how well do they square with the Reformation idea of Scripture alone? Is this what the Reformers meant? (more…)

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