20 December 2013

Thoughts on Scholarship

My brother Gavin with 8 thoughts on scholarly pursuit arising out of his doctoral work in historical theology at Fuller.

The first two:
1) Scholarship can be used for great good. It's like the army, or the press, or technological advance. It can serve the greater good and contribute to society in meaningful ways. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. It is, in itself, a noble and life-enriching activity.

2) Fallen scholarship, when the effects of sin run their full course, tends to produce the opposite of its true purpose. This is way of sin. It does not merely destroy God’s creation, but turns things around into their opposite. It makes family, the place designed for safety and nurturing, into a place of harm and discord. It turns the enjoyment of physical pleasures into regret and pain. It turns religion, the one thing that should humble us, into a system of producing pride and judgment. And so it goes with scholarship: the very thing which should promote knowledge can instead promote obscurity and confusion, and (in extreme cases) elaborate systems of pretentiousness and power-grabbing. Praise God that his common grace restrains this process, and his saving grace reverses it.

19 December 2013

09 December 2013

Male Friendship

Brandon McGinley:
What these four young men represent is a challenge to the common portrayal of male friendship in our popular culture.  It is difficult to find, especially on television, an example of male friendship (outside of the military or law enforcement) that is neither transactional nor idiotic.  For cheap beer, it’s the wingman trope.  In sitcoms, it’s stupid men doing stupid things in stupid attempts at liberation from wives or girlfriends.  Male friendships, we’re taught, are about finding or fleeing women; they are not valuable in themselves.

In the Tullamore Dew spot, the bride, though beautiful, is an afterthought.  The ad has already achieved its effect before she arrives on the scene.  The implicit promise that is so appealing is not that this whiskey will bring you a beautiful wife, but that it will bring you worthy friends to see you off on that marital journey.

And most men desire this friendship—this tender, warm, (dare we say it?) loving friendship—but that desire receives no affirmation in our culture.  Men’s desires are circumscribed within a perverse Venn diagram, with one circle labeled “sex,” the other “mammon.”  Such friendship seems as foreign as the virgin Irish countryside, unattainable in the normal course of life in the 21st century.

And so, lacking the vocabulary even to describe this desire, we call the ad “poignant” and “melancholy.”  But our melancholy does not derive from identification with the bittersweetness of the passage of time or a friend’s life transition.  Rather, it is the melancholy of knowing, or at least suspecting, that we will never experience that bittersweetness quite as intensely, quite as tenderly, ourselves.
My deepest friend is my dear wife Stacey. But I'd rather go bankrupt than lose the handful of brothers who are coming to mind as I reflect on this commercial. 

05 December 2013

The Foolishness of Theological Liberalism

'Bree,' said Aravis, 'I've been wanting to ask you something for a long time. Why do you keep swearing By the Lion and By the Lion's Mane? I thought you hated lions.'

'So I do,' answered Bree. 'But when I speak of the Lion of course I mean Aslan, the great deliverer who drove away the Witch and the Winter. All Narnians swear by him.'

'But is he a lion?'

'No, no, of course not,' said Bree in a rather shocked voice.

'All the stories about him in Tashbaan say he is,' replied Aravis. 'And if he isn't a lion why do you call him a lion?'

'Well, you'd hardly understand that at your age,' said Bree. 'And I was only a little foal when I left so I don't quite fully understand it myself.'

(Bree was standing with his back to the green wall while he said this, and the other two were facing him. He was talking in rather a superior tone with his eyes half shut; that was why he didn't see the changed expression in the faces of Hwin and Aravis. They had good reason to have open mouths and staring eyes; because while Bree spoke they saw an enormous lion leap up from outside and balance itself on top of the green wall; only it was a brighter yellow and it was bigger and more beautiful and more alarming than any lion they had ever seen. And at once it jumped down inside the wall and began approaching Bree from Behind. It made no noise at all. And Hwin and Aravis couldn't make any noise themselves, no more than if they were frozen.)

'No doubt,' continued Bree, 'when they speak of him as a Lion they only mean he's as strong as a lion or (to our enemies, of course) as fierce as a lion. Or something of that kind. Even a little girl like you, Aravis, must see that it would be quite absurd to suppose he is a real lion. Indeed it would be disrespectful. If he was a lion he'd have to be a Beast just like the rest of us. Why!' (and here Bree began to laugh) 'If he was a lion he'd have four paws, and a tail, and Whiskers! . . . Aie, ooh, hoo-hoo! Help!'

For just as he said the word Whiskers, one of Aslan's had actually tickled his ear. Bree shot away like an arrow to the other side of the enclosure and there turned; the wall was too high for him to jump and he could fly no farther. Aravis and Hwin both started back. There was about a second of intense silence.

Then Hwin, shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion.

'Please,' she said, 'you're so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I'd sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.'

'Dearest daughter,' said Aslan, planting a lion's kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, 'I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.'

Then he lifted his head and spoke in a louder voice.

'Now, Bree,' he said, 'you poor, proud, frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast.

'Aslan,' said Bree in a shaken voice, 'I'm afraid I must be rather a fool.'
--C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, chapter 14

04 December 2013

Paradoxical Childlikeness

To become like a little child, over and over again, is one of the more difficult tasks of a believer.  Our tendency, as we grow in Christ, is to become better at life. We get wiser, more loving, and more prudent; so naturally we then become less dependent. So the very work of Christ in us can make us more distant from the spirit of Christ.
--Paul Miller

HT: Wade Urig