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“Abstract” by John Piper

John Piper (UK 1903-1992)
Abstract, 1955
screenprinted rayon

John Piper (UK 1903-1992)
Abstract, 1955

(via Lawrence Lee Magnuson)

Teach them

So you’re a teacher, and your students don’t meet your expectations. They’re not well-informed. They know nothing of Shakespeare. None of them get your sly biblical allusions. They can’t write elegant sentences. When they speak they punctuate every third word with “like.” When they think of God at all, they think of Him as a celestial fairy godfather who’s supposed to ensure that they get what they want in life.

Here’s my advice to you:

Teach them. Nobody promised you that all your students would know everything they need to know — everything that you didn’t know when you were their age. And if at their age you knew things they don’t know, then give thanks to God for your blessings and have pity on those who were not so blessed. Teach them. Take them wherever they are and move them a step or two forward. Stop your ceaseless, pointless whining and do your job. For the love of God, do your freakin’ job and shut the hell up.

Alan Jacobs

I am therefore (with some help from the weather and rheumatism!) trying to profit by this new realisation of my mortality. To begin to die, to loosen a few of the tentacles which the octopus-world has fastened on one. But of course it is continuings, not beginnings, that are the point. A good night’s sleep, a sunny morning, a success with my next book–any of these will, I know, alter the whole thing. Which alteration, by the bye, being in reality a relapse from partial waking into the old stupor, would nevertheless be regarded by most people as a return to health from a ‘morbid’ mood!

Well, it’s certainly not that. But it is a very partial waking. One ought not to need the gloomy moments of life for beginning detachment, nor be re-entangled by the bright ones. One ought to be able to enjoy the bright ones to the full and at that very same moment have the perfect readiness to leave them, confident that what calls one away is better.

— C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2

People claim that their secular outlook is simply what was left after science and reason subtracted their former belief in the supernatural. Once that superstition was gone, they were able to see things that had been there all along— that reason alone can establish truth, and the “humanistic values” of equality and freedom. However, each of these ideas is a new belief, a value-laden commitment that can’t be empirically proven. To move from religion to secularism is not so much a loss of faith as a shift into a new set of beliefs and into a new community of faith, one that draws the lines between orthodoxy and heresy in different places.

This is one of the main reasons many secular people do not think it worth their while to explore and weigh the claims for believers in God and Christianity. They assume that belief is mainly a matter of faith while nonbelief is mainly based on reason.

— Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical

For a generation or more, many of the writers who might have busied themselves exploring and explaining the Christian tradition— to the benefit of the secular world and ordinary believers alike— have been engaged instead in a project that has undercut historic Christianity while building nothing lasting in its place. The cultural impact of figures like Pagels and Ehrman and Borg and Crossan has been almost entirely destabilizing. Rather than propagating an understanding of Jesus’ identity that’s more intellectually compelling than the orthodox portrait, all they’ve succeeded in doing is validating the idea that Jesus’ identity is entirely up for grabs, and that one can be a follower of Christ without having to accept any constraints on what that “following” might mean.

— Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics 

“Empathy” by A.E. Stallings

My love, I’m grateful tonight
Our listing bed isn’t a raft
Precariously adrift
As we dodge the coast-guard light,

And clasp hold of a girl and a boy.
I’m glad that we didn’t wake
Our kids in the thin hours, to take
Not a thing, not a favorite toy,

And we didn’t hand over our cash
To one of the smuggling rackets,
That we didn’t buy cheap lifejackets
No better than bright orange trash

And less buoyant.  I’m glad that the dark
Above us, is not deeply twinned
Beneath us, and moiled with wind,
And we don’t scan the sky for a mark,

Any mark, that demarcates a shore
As the dinghy starts taking on water.
I’m glad that our six-year old daughter,
Who can’t swim, is a foot off the floor

In the bottom bunk, and our son
With his broken arm’s high and dry,
That the ceiling is not seeping sky,
With our journey but hardly begun.

Empathy isn’t generous,
It’s selfish.  It’s not being nice
To say I would pay any price
Not to be those who’d die to be us.

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love —a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek—
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains