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(The IC) Bruce Frohnen–T.S Eliot’s Christianity and Culture: the Problem of Establishment

Liberalism is fundamentally negative in its teleology. Its inherent purpose is to liberate individuals from constraints of tradition, social structure, and cultural context. It can have good effects (some structures are, indeed, oppressive) but if not checked it will corrode the social framework, producing anarchy and brutal responses to that anarchy. Here, obviously, Eliot is referring to the rise of totalitarianism, perhaps most obviously in response to the anarchy of post–World War I German society. He also points to the discomfiting fact that Western democracies share significant affinities with totalitarian regimes. Totalitarian regimes simply have advanced more fully (and ironically, more efficiently) on the road to paganism, a destination toward which our society continues to move.[5]

Clearly there is a prescriptive element to Eliot’s argument. Few people of sense and goodwill would choose either the totalitarianism or the cultural death naturally succeeding to a neutral society that is not brought back to its religious roots. But Eliot’s explanatory goal is to point out the nature of our choices as a vestigial Christian society. He seeks to eliminate the inconsistency (whether adopted from ignorance or the intention to deceive) of those whose real values “are of materialistic efficiency” yet who claim also to value Christianity (CC, 16). “The Liberal notion that religion was a matter of private belief and of conduct in private life, and that there is no reason why Christians should not be able to accommodate themselves to any world which treats them good-naturedly, is becoming less and less tenable” (CC, 17). This view is an unsurprising outgrowth of liberalism’s genuine good fruits, peace and toleration.

But the liberal secular viewpoint has become increasingly untenable due to the difficulty of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society.

The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us, and it is a very different problem from that of the accommodation between an Established Church and dissenters. It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian. And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. (CC, 17–18; emphasis in original)

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, History, Religion & Culture, Uncategorized

(CT) Farewell, Jesus Junk? Christian Retail Finds a Deeper Purpose

Overall, millennials are actually buying more books than older generations and still favor printed copies. Their tastes, Janz says, have led to higher-quality offerings from Christian publishers—from the end of cheesy Christian book covers to more culturally engaging topical offerings. “The millennial buyers are driving this,” he said. “If they’re going to buy something, it better be good.”

But when it comes to where they shop, younger Christians, as Barna Group president David Kinnaman warned nearly a decade ago, aren’t looking for safe spaces. They side with authenticity—even if it comes with strong language—over squeaky-clean offerings. Millennials are used to encountering a range of perspectives online and among their friends. They tend to value diverse viewpoints over Christian gatekeepers or denominational labels.

Most discerning readers of all ages want to see bookstores offer a variety of viewpoints, though some have reservations about putting certain resources out there under a Christian banner. What if new believers get caught up in books whose teaching requires some sorting through?

That becomes the seller’s call….

Read it all.

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From the Morning Bible Readings

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you, if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of being profligate or insubordinate. For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.

–Titus 1:4-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

Ed Stetzer—Being pro-life means caring about all of human life. That includes being pro-refugee

First, evangelicals have been involved with refugee resettlement for a long time and in a lot of churches. Many evangelical leaders have advocated for refugees, from all different faiths, for years. They know the program, and they know the refugees — and they know it’s safe and a good way to show the love of Christ.

Second, evangelical leaders, knowing the facts, are emboldened to speak when alternative facts may be holding sway elsewhere, particularly when those alternative facts are hurting the most vulnerable. In the Christian tradition, we call that speaking prophetically — like prophets in what Christians call the Old Testament, we have to sometimes speak to our own people and remind them of what is right.

Third, many evangelical leaders have had an uneasy connection with the Trump administration. Yes, they know that white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, and many strongly agree with Trump’s stated concerns about religious liberty, the Supreme Court, and more. But they want — and even need — room to disagree with a president who has said and done many things contrary to their beliefs. Speaking up for refugees is one of the areas where many believe they can.

Read it all from Vox.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Life Ethics, Uncategorized

'What people remember about the past..is likely to warp their judgment of the future'


(Amazon)

But these stories people told themselves were biased by the availability of the material used to construct them. “Images of the future are shaped by experience of the past,” they wrote, turning on its head Santayana’s famous lines about the importance of history: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. What people remember about the past, they suggested, is likely to warp their judgment of the future. “We often decide that an outcome is extremely unlikely or impossible, because we are unable to imagine any chain of events that could cause it to occur. The defect, often, is in our imagination.”

–Michael Lewis, The Undoing Project (New York: Norton, 2017), pp.194-195 (emphasis mine)

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A Prayer to Begin the Day from Thomas Aquinas

Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know thee, diligence to seek thee, wisdom to find thee, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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[C-Span] Presidential Inauguration

[Update]: There are individual clips and the day’s program here and the inaugural speech here
Watch it here if you wish [without commentary] and there is a 360 degree view

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Epiphany by John Goodman

How could they have known not to come
On what amounted to pretense? Everything
Their learning held, all their beliefs
Said regal gifts were needful for a king.

The things they brought were left behind,
Doubtless; or maybe traded for bread:
Impecunious Joseph with a family
To feed, a roof to put over his head.

Read it all.

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G.K. Chesterton on Christmas: It is rather something that surprises us from behind

For those who think the idea of the Crusade is one that spoils the idea of the Cross, we can only say that for them the idea of the Cross is spoiled; the idea of the cross is spoiled quite literally in the cradle. It is not here to the purpose to argue with them on the abstract ethics of fighting; the purpose in this place is merely to sum up the combination of ideas that make up the Christian and Catholic idea, and to note that all of them are already crystallised in the first Christmas story. They are three distinct and commonly contrasted things which are nevertheless one thing; but this is the only thing which can make them one.

The first is the human instinct for a heaven that shall be as literal and almost as local as a home. It is the idea pursued by all poets and pagans making myths; that a particular place must be the shrine of the god or the abode of the blest; that fairyland is a land; or that the return of the ghost must be the resurrection of the body. I do not here reason about the refusal of rationalism to satisfy this need. I only say that if the rationalists refuse to satisfy it, the pagans will not be satisfied. This is present in the story of Bethlehem and Jerusalem as it is present in the story of Delos and Delphi; and as it is not present in the whole universe of Lucretius or the whole universe of Herbert Spencer.

The second element is a philosophy larger than other philosophies; larger than that of Lucretius and infinitely larger than that of Herbert Spencer. It looks at the world through a hundred windows where the ancient stoic or the modern agnostic only looks through one. It sees life with thousands of eyes belonging to thousands of different sorts of people, where the other is only the individual standpoint of a stoic or an agnostic. It has something for all moods of man, it finds work for all kinds of men, it understands secrets of psychology, it is aware of depths of evil, it is able to distinguish between ideal and unreal marvels and miraculous exceptions, it trains itself in tact about hard cases, all with a multiplicity and subtlety and imagination about the varieties of life which is far beyond the bald or breezy platitudes of most ancient or modern moral philosophy. In a word, there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life. Masses of this material about our many-sided life have been added since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas. But St. Thomas Aquinas alone would have found himself limited in the world of Confucius or of Comte.
And the third point is this; that while it is local enough for poetry and larger than any other philosophy, it is also a challenge and a fight. While it is deliberately broadened to embrace every aspect of truth, it is still stiffly embattled against every mode of error. It gets every kind of man to fight for it, it gets every kind of weapon to fight with, it widens its knowledge of the things that are fought for and against with every art of curiosity or sympathy; but it never forgets that it is fighting. It proclaims peace on earth and never forgets why there was war in heaven.

This is the trinity of truths symbolised here by the three types in the old Christmas story; the shepherds and the kings and that other king who warred upon the children. It is simply not true to say that other religions and philosophies are in this respect its rivals. It is not true to say that any one of them combines these characters; it is not true to say that any one of them pretends to combine them. Buddhism may profess to be equally mystical; it does not even profess to be equally military. Islam may profess to be equally military; it does not even profess to be equally metaphysical and subtle. Confucianism may profess to satisfy the need of the philosophers for order and reason; it does not even profess to satisfy the need of the mystics for miracle and sacrament and the consecration of concrete things.

There are many evidences of this presence of a spirit at once universal and unique. One will serve here which is the symbol of the subject of this chapter; that no other story, no pagan legend or philosophical anecdote or historical event, does in fact affect any of us with that peculiar and even poignant impression produced on us by the word Bethlehem. No other birth of a god or childhood of a sage seems to us to be Christmas or anything like Christmas. It is either too cold or too frivolous, or too formal and classical, or too simple and savage, or too occult and complicated. Not one of us, whatever his opinions, would ever go to such a scene with the sense that he was going home. He might admire it because it was poetical, or because it was philosophical, or any number of other things in separation; but not because it was itself. The truth is that there is a quite peculiar and individual character about the hold of this story on human nature; it is not in its psychological substance at all like a mere legend or the life of a great man. It does not exactly in the ordinary sense turn our minds to greatness; to those extensions and exaggerations of humanity which are turned into gods and heroes, even by the healthiest sort of hero-worship. It does not exactly work outwards, adventurously, to the wonders to be found at the ends of the earth. It is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can some times take us off our guard in the pathos of small objects or the blind pieties of the poor. It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good. It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush us and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that is there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary softening that is in some strange fashion become a strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity.

–”“The Everlasting Man (Radford, Virginia: Wilder Publications, 2008 paperback ed. of the 1925 original), pp. 114-116

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([London] Times) We need proper rules for those who wish to be frozen after death

Judges will seek, if possible, to respect the wishes of people like JS who wish to be cryonically preserved after their death. Even though Hell is likely to freeze over before any cryonic unfreezing successfully occurs. And even though most of us would echo the words of the song in the Disney film Frozen: “Let it go, let it go.” The proper role of the law is to regulate the practice to protect vulnerable people.

Those who wish to offer a cryonic service should require a licence. A regulator needs to be satisfied that they are a fit and proper person to operate in this field, in particular that they have adequately trained staff and effective procedures at least to ensure preservation ”” though no degree of regulation can guarantee future resuscitation. The Human Tissue Authority would be an appropriate regulator. It is the statutory body which controls the use of organs and body parts, but it presently has no responsibility for cryonic preservation.

In the graveyard, Hamlet picks up what he contemplates may be “the skull of a lawyer”. Where, he asks, are now “his cases, his tenures, and his tricks?” It is exceptionally unlikely that in some Supreme Courtroom in hundreds of years time, cryonically preserved and resuscitated lawyers from the early 21st century could again argue and decide cases, even if they would wish to do so. But if any lawyer, or judge, is, like JS, contemplating a freezing process on their death, they are entitled to expect the law to provide regulation. The government should start consulting.

Read it all (requires subscription).

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Time Picks Donald Trump as its Person of the Year 2016

Even for Donald Trump, the distance is still fun to think about, up here in his penthouse 600 ft. in the sky, where it’s hard to make out the regular people below. The ice skaters swarming Central Park’s Wollman Rink look like old-television static, and the Fifth Avenue holiday shoppers could be mites in a gutter. To even see this view, elevator operators, who spend their days standing in place, must push a button marked 66”“68, announcing all three floors of Trump’s princely pad. Inside, staff members wear cloth slipcovers on their shoes, so as not to scuff the shiny marble or stain the plush cream carpets.

This is, in short, not a natural place to refine the common touch. It’s gilded and gaudy, a dreamscape of faded tapestry, antique clocks and fresco-style ceiling murals of gym-rat Greek gods. The throw pillows carry the Trump shield, and the paper napkins are monogrammed with the family name. His closest neighbors, at least at this altitude, are an international set of billionaire moguls who have decided to stash their money at One57 and 432 Park, the two newest skyscrapers to remake midtown Manhattan. There is no tight-knit community in the sky, no paperboy or postman, no bowling over brews after work.

And yet here Trump resides, under dripping crystal, with diamond cuff links, as the President-elect of the United States of America. The Secret Service agents milling about prove that it really happened, this election result few saw coming. Hulking and serious, they gingerly try to stay on the marble, avoiding the carpets with their uncovered shoes. On his wife Melania’s desk, next to books of Gianni Versace’s fashions and Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry, a new volume sits front and center: The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

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A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Euchologium Anglicanum

O Lord God, author of our salvation, who desirest that all men should live in Christ Jesus: Grant that we may begin this new year in our spiritual life knowing our need to increase our faith and to enlarge our repentance; assist us in thy mercy to live as in a state of grace, and to regard this life as part of our eternal inheritance; grant that difficulties may not overthrow us nor temptations defeat us, but that we may go forward on our journey through this life in the spirit of courage and godliness; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Samuel Seabury's First years of Ministry for his Feast Day

Christmas day in 1753 fell on the Tuesday which was but two days after the ordination to the Priesthood just mentioned. The newly ordained priest on the morning of that day, was sent with a note of introduction from the Chaplain of the Bishop of London to the Incumbent of one of the Churches in that city, apparently with the view of assigning to him some duty for the day. The Incumbent gave him but a surly reception, sternly demanding upon his entrance to the vestry-room, who he was, and what he wanted; in silent reply to which demands he presented his note; the comment upon which was, “Hah! Well, if the Bishop has sent you, I suppose I must take you. Give him a surplice, and show him into the desk” (to the Sexton), “and do you, Sir, find your places, and wait there till I come.” A younger clergyman, of more amiable appearance, meanwhile seemed much amused at this splenetic reception. Coming back into the Vestry after the service, the Doctor turning fiercely upon the neophyte, exclaimed, “What is the reason, Sir, that you did not read the Litany?” “Because, Sir, it is not a Litany day.” “And don’t you know that if the Ordinary chooses to have it read on Festival days, it is your duty to read it?” “That may be, Sir, but it is the Ordinary’s business to let me know that.” The old man’s face was black with passion, but before he had time to explode, the younger clergyman came to the rescue, saying: “Doctor, you won’t get much out of this young man; you had better turn him over to me, for I see you don’t want him: come, Mr. Seabury, will you go with me to–Church and preach for me!” “I never preached a sermon in my life.” “Well, of all things I should like to hear a virgin preacher! ” So the young men took themselves off, and after dinner the virgin sermon was preached; though concerning its subject, and the place where it was broached, tradition is silent: as it also is in respect to any further official acts of the preacher during the remainder of his stay in England.
In the year following, 1754, having received his appointment as a missionary of the Society for Propagating the Gospel, he set sail for his native land, and soon after began the regular exercise of his ministry at New Brunswick, in the Province of New Jersey. One of his relatives, writing about this time to another, observed: “Mr. Samuel Seabury has returned to America again; an excellent physician, a learned divine, an accomplished gentleman and a pious Christian;” a record which indicates the reputation which he had in the small circle within which he was then known, and which it was anticipated that his future life would verify.

Not much is known in regard to his work during the short time of his charge at New Brunswick, but the period is interesting, both on account of the evidence of his doctrinal principles afforded by his sermons, and also on account of the evidence of the extension of his influence and reputation in a somewhat wider sphere, afforded by contemporaneous events with which he was associated.

Among his manuscripts are several of the sermons which he preached at New Brunswick….

Read it all.

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A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Lutheran Church

O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by thy Holy Spirit, that being ever mindful of the end of all things, and the day of thy just judgment, we may be stirred up to holiness of living here, and dwell with thee forever hereafter; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.

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My Favorite Veteran’s Story of the last Few Years””An ESPN piece on the Saratoga WarHorse Program

Saratoga Springs, N.Y., famous for its historic racetrack, is among the most idyllic places in America. But on a recent fall weekend, not far from the track, horses were serving a different mission: retired thoroughbreds were recruited to help returning veterans at Song Hill Farm. A group from the US Army 2nd Battalion, 135th infantry, united in grief over the death of a fellow solider, gathered for the first time in five years to be part of Saratoga Warhorse, a three-day program that pairs veterans with horses. Tom Rinaldi reports the emotional story of the veterans, paired with their horses, undergoing a rebirth of trust and taking a first step toward healing.

Watch it all, and, yes, you will likely need kleenex–KSH.

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