"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Can We Handle Information?

Constitution day just passed on the 17th of September. I suppose not many people noticed the day, just as I suppose not many people notice the Constitution itself. One student at a Modesto, California Junior College attempted to pass out copies of the Constitution, but he was quickly stopped by campus officials, according to news reports and the video above. (1) And so life goes on in our safe and insulated little world.

What is disturbing about the incident at an institution of higher learning is what it tells us about our society. When an administrator such as the one in the video has an entire binder full of regulations regarding speech and the dissemination of information, we should scratch our heads and wonder why. Is it because we are not capable of handling opinions that differ from ours? Is it because we cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood on our own? Is it because we cannot say “no thank you” when someone tries to hand us a pamphlet? Such nanny laws sound like a concerned parent telling a young child: “don't talk to strangers!” But are adults on a college campus children? (Ok, ok, maybe they do seem like it much of the time.) The anonymous creators of the binder full of rules apparently think so. Apparently they are trying to protect us from ideas that come from unofficial sources. “Trust your professors and trust your textbooks, but flee the intellectual snares of all others,” they seem to say. And it doesn't matter how historically, politically, and philosophically relevant something may be. Nay, even if it is one of the most important political documents in human history, it should not reach your ears if it does not come from an officially approved source.

No doubt lots of garbage is kept out of circulation this way, but I can't help thinking that I would rather be the one to decide if it is garbage or not. It is not just that I think copies of the Constitution should be passed out: if someone were passing out copies of the Communist Manifesto I would certainly take one, even though I profoundly disagree with it. A college campus, not to mention our society in general, is a place where we should be allowed to hear other people's ideas. Treat adults like children for long enough and they just might become children, or worse, imbeciles.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why "We" Don't Believe in Science, er, Evolution

The New Yorker recently had an article with the intriguing title: "Why We Don't Believe in Science." The article cites a poll showing that 46% of Americans believe God created the earth relatively recently. In other words, that is 46% who don't believe in evolution. It explains that this number has "remained virtually unchanged" in the thirty years that Gallup has been asking the question. Now, the obvious answer to the article's question of why we don't believe in science (which in the article is often equated with evolution) is that evolution is not true. Unfortunately, the article overlooks this answer and instead posits that the reason we are so backwards and don't believe is because of (wait for it...): "the irony of evolution: our views about our own development don’t seem to be evolving." Yes, that is rather ironic. Humans seem to be hardwired with a belief in a creator and a creation. One cannot help but be reminded of the Psalmist's words: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalms 19:1). Or the philosopher Paul's statement that, "what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:19-20).

How does The New Yorker propose to deal with this universally acknowledged fact? One is almost embarrassed at the crudeness of saying what the article proposes: brainwashing. To quote: "This means that science education is not simply a matter of learning new theories. Rather, it also requires that students unlearn their instincts." Yes, think about it. It is brainwashing. Yet another indication that Ben Stein was right in his documentary Expelled. The "science educators" of the article are fools... but don't take my word for it. To quote Paul again: "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:22-23). Thankfully, according to the poll, only 15% of Americans have become total fools, exchanging God completely for a furry ape or a fish in the primordial slime. Which would you rather have: Father God or father ape?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Children of Angels

“…a sudden, sun-bright glow burst from inside Jeremy, turning him white-hot to look at, fading as quickly as it came. Jeremy shaded his eyes and glanced at the sun, wondering if the sudden light came from a sunspot or something.”

In this passage from the opening to Kathryn Dahlstrom’s new work, Children of Angels, the life of thirteen-year-old Jeremy Lapoint changes forever. With his father in prison and his mother battling to make ends meet, the hope and joy that Jeremy once knew have vanished. His peace is also robbed by the hateful remarks of bullies like Sid Lundahl, Chad, and others at Anoka, Minnesota, Middle School. He is altogether too accustomed to hearing himself called, “the son of the sleaze ball.” However, on the day that Ms. Dahlstrom’s readers first meet Jeremy, something is different. It is as if some long dormant part of him has been roused by the taunts and jeers of the bullies. He suddenly has the urge to stand up, to fight back, and to…fly. With a leap and a bound he soars through the air – half terrified, half ecstatic – like a teenaged Superman. It is only later at school – when he is chased by a vicious demon and rescued from the seeming peril by his guardian angel, Asiel – that Jeremy realizes his “superpowers” operate on a level entirely different from Superman’s. Asiel informs him that he is a Nephilim – part human and part angel – connected to the “heroes of old” described in Genesis chapter six.

Asiel, however, does not reveal the entire history of the Nephilim to the newly enlightened Jeremy. Instead, he responds to his ward’s frenzied questions, saying: “Seek the truth at the proper time – and the One who gives it. The angel in your kind longs to serve Him. The human … has a fight on his hands.” These words signal the beginning of Jeremy’s journey: his search for the truth about himself, his quest for the faith he has never known, and his pursuit of the peace that transcends understanding. His early steps along this road take him to the Higher Humanity Institute – a school for children who share Jeremy’s special powers, headed by “commandant” Louisa Prouse. But, the school is literally crawling with demons that only Jeremy can see. Daunting questions begin to swirl through his mind. Why is the presence of evil so strong at a school for the children of angels? Why do none of the other pupils know about the Nephilim? What will be the outcome of what Asiel dubs “the war for truth”?

The world Kathryn Dahlstrom has created within the pages of Children of Angels is an epic battleground pitting good against evil, truth against falsehood, and faith against doubt. In the midst of the action, some of the most pressing questions that may arise in the minds of men are examined:
“Where was God when they took my aunts to the gas chambers?”; “Why had Dad made drugs more important than Mom, Dana, and his son?”; “Do you really love me, Lord Jesus?” 
The writing style is both gripping and entertaining – aimed at young people, but appealing to readers across the age spectrum. The intensity of the action is enjoyably tempered with the type of lightheartedness and banter that only well-crafted characters in their early teens can provide. Also, the imagery that Ms. Dahlstrom uses is remarkably solid – the scenes vividly playing across the picture screen of the reader’s imagination. In fact, it would be wonderful if this story was adapted for the silver screen, bringing a fresh mixture of faith, fantasy, mystery, and excitement to movie-goers who crave what the back cover of the book calls, “adventure with a life-changing message.”

 [A special thanks to guest blogger Anna Gant for this review of Children of Angels! Also thanks to WinePress Publishing for this first book in the exciting New Nephilim series.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chesterton on Art

“A man wandering about a race-course, making bets that nobody took seriously, would be merely a bore. And so the hero wandering through a novel, making vows of love that nobody took seriously, is merely a bore. The point here is not so much that morally it cannot be a creditable story, but that artistically it cannot be a story at all. Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal; the shock of beauty is when the irresistible force hits the immovable post.”  --G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton, G.K. Fancies Versus Fads. 1923. Accessed 9 April 2012 <http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/Fancies_Versis_Fads.txt>

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not to Itemize but to Generalize

Michael J. Lewis, in an article on architecture entitled The Decline of American Monuments and Memorials, gives his opinion of why American art is uncomfortable with itself and unable to approach coherent greatness. Speaking of both the plastic arts and the written, he says:

"Allegory requires an imaginative act, and is literary, whereas our culture is uncomfortable with figurative language. This began around 1977, the moment the language censors began to attack phrases like “Man does not live on bread alone,” asking “What about women?” A painful literalism set in, which is hostile to figurative language in speech and to abstract allegory in art. Nowadays we tend to think literally rather than literarily, which explains why Frederick Hart had to portray the American military experience in Vietnam by means of three men of three distinct races—and why a women’s memorial was subsequently added. [Even though to the 58,000 male soldiers killed there were only 7 women killed.] The fear of leaving someone or something out is hostile to the allegorical impulse, which seeks not to itemize but to generalize, and to speak not specific truths but great truths. It is not surprising that a culture ill at ease with the notion of absolute truth would find it very difficult to make monuments that show urgency and conviction."

HT: Hillsdale College Imprimis

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"My heart warn't right"

“It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing... but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie—I found that out.”  --Huckleberry Finn

In this scene, Huck Finn has an excellent grasp of what is required for a relationship with God. Not only does he realize that a person “can't pray a lie,” but he also knows that, “I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all” (1383). Huck is verbalizing one of the worst problems with prideful man's condition: repenting in word but not in deed. Wanting to have the cake and eat it too. Huck Finn realizes that this won't work. God requires true repentance, not a halfhearted or faked repentance. It is not surprising that Mark Twain picked up on this double-dealing by many people and embodied it in one of his most famous characters. Twain had an ever observant eye out for hypocrisy in every aspect of life. Huck eventually makes the intellectually honest decision not to pray what he doesn't feel inside. How many times, if we looked at our own lives, would we find that Huck is more honest with God about his heart's true condition than we are.

Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn. The Norton Anthology of America Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. Shorter 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. Print

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

C.S. Lewis On Praise

“I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read. The healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously bought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal: the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. Nor does it cease to be so when, through lack of skill, the forms of its expression are very uncouth or even ridiculous. Heaven knows, many poems of praise addressed to an earthly beloved are as bad as our bad hymns.... I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn't she lovely?” Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.”

C.S. Lewis. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958. Print. Pgs 94-95