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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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By In Culture

The Necessity of Beauty

We live in a terribly efficient world. Time and space must be practical, functional. All the frills that remove from the bottom line, that aren’t absolutely necessary to what we are producing, must be discarded. Consequently, many people sit in maximally utilized, monochrome office space just functioning. We are like machines putting out products. The last thing a functional machine needs is beauty. Beauty is not productive. Beauty is not efficient. It is wasteful; a luxury at best. Our money can be spent better elsewhere.We live in a terribly efficient world. Time and space must be practical, functional. All the frills that remove from the bottom line, that aren’t absolutely necessary to what we are producing, must be discarded. Consequently, many people sit in maximally utilized, monochrome office space just functioning. We are like machines putting out products. The last thing a functional machine needs is beauty. Beauty is not productive. Beauty is not efficient. It is wasteful; a luxury at best. Our money can be spent better elsewhere.

The church has not escaped this cultural trap. Many of us Protestants meet in warehouses and strip malls, sometimes out of necessity to be sure, but sometimes because it is efficient. The money we make is better used to feed the poor or send to foreign missionaries. Both inside and out our architecture and art scream that beauty is not important to us.

In the midst of a hungry and lost world, God is wasteful; or so it would seem from our generally accepted standards of wastefulness. In the middle of the wilderness, with a people who didn’t even have a permanent place to call “home,” God tells Moses to make his brother, Aaron, garments for glory and beauty (Exod 28.2). These garments were made of the most expensive fabrics, rare and carefully crafted stones, and woven throughout with gold threads. What a waste. Couldn’t these things have been sold and given to the poor? While the world is dying and going to hell, God has his people making a glorious tent and beautiful clothes for a high priest.

God doesn’t do anything that isn’t necessary. The beauty he prescribes is necessary for his people and the world. There is no waste in beauty.

We were created to make things beautiful. In the beginning God told man to take dominion over the earth, making it fruitful in every way. God gave man the pattern in creating a beautiful garden. Man, in turn, was to make the world a place of glory and beauty. We and the world were to move from glory to glory; from beauty to beauty. Beauty is the fruit of a people who are maturing in righteousness. The movement of the Scriptural story attests to this truth. In the beginning man is naked and in a relatively undeveloped world. The last images of Scripture are of a beautifully clothed people in a fully developed city, a city that is the product of the dominion of Christ and his people.

Jesus himself reveals this progress in his own life. We hear in Isaiah that he begins with “no beauty that we should desire him.” But in the Revelation, he is a glorious figure. We and the world are transformed in the likeness of Christ’s transformation. We are moving from beauty to beauty.

Transformation of the world into the beautiful is the calling of the Christian church as she matures. Developing beauty is non-optional for the faithful.

Beauty reflects our progress in time, but beauty also reflects our future, revealing our hope, what we will be. Beauty draws us into this future and gives us hope. If you have ever been overwhelmed by beauty, you know what I mean. Beauty overwhelms us; not in a condemning way or in a way that leaves us at a distance. Beauty draws us in and calls us up to be better than we are. We are inspired by beauty. In the midst of an ugly world, beauty is one aid among many to refresh the soul.

Making things beautiful is an exercise in faith. Creating beauty declares that there is more to this life than an efficient, machine-like existence. Creating beauty says that we serve a beautiful God, and we are becoming more and more like him.

Though beautiful art and architecture can never do it by itself, beauty is integral in calling the Christian community to faith. God creates garments of glory and beauty for Aaron so that he and the people he represents will “live up to them.” Beauty says, “This is who you were made to be. Now, live beautifully.” Show the world this beauty, and they will be drawn to it.

Charles Klamut summarizes all of this very well when he writes:

‘Beauty will save the world.’ That remains to be seen. But beauty has saved me, and continues to do so. My experience is that I need saving; it is not a luxury. Beauty saves. Or, to put it more precisely, beauty points me to the One who saves, who is Beauty itself. Beauty is a necessity, not a luxury. Beauty moves us, awakens us, provokes us, bringing freshness and newness to hearts that have too easily grown old and stale. A luxury is something extra, added on after duties are complete. But beauty is not something extra, it is what comes first. Because without beauty, the duties prove too hard and, eventually, seem pointless. An old, tired soul cannot move itself, cannot sustain itself. It ultimately fails in its tasks.  Beauty renews the soul, pointing us ever back to our origins and our destiny, making life begin again. May God never leave us bereft of anointed artists, prophets, and poets of the transcendent, who will keep wounding our hearts with nostalgia for the infinite destiny which alone matches the proportions of our great hearts.(Fr. Charles Klamut; http://www.hprweb.com/2013/01/beauty-a-necessity-not-a-luxury/ )

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By In Culture, Theology

Sola Fide: The Problem With the Sinner’s Prayer

I am a Reformed Protestant, and I don’t believe we are saved by faith alone. Neither do I believe we are “once saved, always saved.” Do those statements seem strange to you? Then you’ve probably fallen prey to one of the great distortions of Protestant and evangelical theology. Read on, and I’ll explain.

Both the material cause of the split between Rome and the Reformers (Sola Fide, or “faith alone”), and the formal cause (Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture alone”), suffer from widespread distortions and misunderstandings, even among Protestants who claim to espouse these principles. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I want to debunk some popular myths about these two of the Five Solae.

The Pseudo-Sacrament of Conversion

Let’s start with Sola Fide, as it’s commonly embodied in evangelical circles: as a sort of confession of guilt and pledge of allegiance to God known as “the sinner’s prayer.” It usually goes something like this: (more…)

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By In Culture, Family and Children

Caution: Some Slopes Really Are Slippery

“That’s a slippery slope argument.”

An actual person on social media, in the year 2017, said this to me after I predicted the Boy Scouts’ new separate-but-equal arrangement for girls will last about as long as a Kit-Kat bar in a hot car.

The progressive memory is evidently around 2.5 seconds long, because 3.0 seconds ago culturally, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were opposed to gay marriage, people with male genitalia were men, people with female genitalia were women, and intentionally spreading AIDS was known to the state of California to cause felony charges.

boy_scoutsThe first obvious point is that some slopes really are slippery. (more…)

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By In Culture

If Men Were Angels

The Constitution as an Expression of Individual Freedom

In his lionhearted defense of the Constitution, James Madison declared, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary…” (The Federalist No. 51) Madison argued that human nature and its tendencies toward the abuse of power demanded a tripartite constitution to restrain human governments. Yet the triumph of the American Constitution is greater than merely actualizing this Montesquieuan balance of power. Rather, the U.S. Constitution represents a revolution toward self-government. By its recognition of delegated powers, our Constitution not only protects individual freedoms, but expresses all political authority as derived from the cooperation of self-governing institutions. Today, in our time of political polarization, Americans must recover their founders’ constitutional hierarchy of authority. An inversion of the medieval hierarchy with the individual at its crest as the sole-grantor of powers for its servant: the constitutionally-restrained Federal government. Today, as communities fear overreach by the President, the Congress, and even the Judiciary – a return to the Constitution’s emphasis on self-government is the only remedy. (more…)

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By In Culture, Politics

Trump, the NFL, and Culture War

As the Christian approaches the NFL/National Anthem Controversy, the first thing we have to understand is leftism is the greatest political threat to the church today by a mile. State-worshipping nationalism is indeed a problem, especially within the church, but it is dwarfed by cultural marxism. FoxNews watching Baby Boomers are responsible for a host of our present miseries, but they aren’t going to put my family in a gulag. The people who claim my very existence as a white person is oppressive and racist seem more than wiling to. These are the people who are driven to riot when someone as tame as Ben Shapiro, a quick-witted dispenser of fairly mundane GOP talking points, arrives to speak on their universities. These are the people who will ruin the lives of bakers, florists, photographers, etc. who will not use their skills to celebrate sodomy. These are the people who demand that anyone even tangentially connected with slavery must be erased from all historical memory.

Every major corporation kowtows to these people. Including and especially sports leagues like the NFL. Do not forget that when Texas and North Carolina put forth bills to protect freedom of conscience of Christian business owners, the NFL threatened both states to pull their business. The NFL also notoriously promoted Michael Sam, the Mizzou defensive end with underwhelming football talent (as evidenced by his quick departure from the league), but unbelievable value as a propaganda tool. They are quick to banish players who are merely accused of domestic violence or sexual assault, doing away with all semblance of due process in a move that is clearly made to placate radical feminists who wish all accusations of violence against women were similarly punishable by testimony of a single witness.

Like most cultural institutions in America, universities, entertainment conglomerates like Disney (the owner of entertainment products like Lucasfilm and ESPN), news media, tech corporations like Google and Apple, the NFL is moderately left wing. They have their finger on where the zeitgeist is and have set their course just a wee bit left of that. They are not radically leftwing, for if they were, Colin Kaepernick, the Fidel-Castro-loving, pig-sock-wearing, former 49ers quarterback, who is not without enough talent to at least justify a roster spot, would still be employed. They are clearly terrified to have their organization connected to whatever the worst inanities Slate, HuffPo, Vice, and Salon can inspire that will come out of his mouth at a press conference. The NFL is clearly willing to sip some diet woke, but if they let Kaepernick come back, a fatal overdose of wokeness will get injected straight into their veins. (more…)

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