Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Non-Transcendence Problem (A Philosophy of Potatoes, Part II)

My approach to philosophy (that consummate bogeyman) is to simplify things. I am not saying that I dumb things down so that their true meaning is lost. What I do mean is that I strive to cut through all the jargon and blather and find the most fundamental expression of an idea or issue. Personal experience has taught me that any philosophic position (no matter how monstrously opaque) can be boiled down by certain degrees to a single, simple statement that sums up what is really being said. Furthermore, personal experience has also taught me that once that single, simple statement has been reached, the rest of the jargon and blather (of both the original position and even its derivatives) takes on a sudden clarity. Thus, I've found the practice of simplifying things to be highly practical for reasons in addition to making philosophy less terrifying than it already is.

An example of this came to me recently while reading through Roger Scruton's Modern Philosophy. Despite its dull and formidable sounding name, the book reveals Scruton's penchant for making philosophic concepts (as best as can be) digestible for the man or woman on the street as well as acceptable to the academic. What I've learned so far has been exciting as well as enlightening, and I feel lead to share my recent discoveries.

Modern philosophy begins with Descartes, who (besides saying, "I think, therefore I am") created what has been the most perplexing issue for modern philosophy. It is an issue of epistemology (i.e., how we can have true knowledge), and it is rather disturbing. He postulated two scenarios that utterly questioned our ability to know anything at all. The first can be called "Descartes dream," i.e., the world that we know and see and feel is all an illusion created by our own minds, similar to a dream. An idea somewhat echoed recently in Inception, reality (the "waking" world) is beyond us, and we are so effectively wrapped up in the dream of our own making that we can never even know that the real world exists. If this scenario is true, then how can we ever have true knowledge?

The second scenario is even more disturbing. It is called "Descartes demon," i.e., the world that we know and see and feel is all an illusion created by a "demon" who whispers it in our ear and weaves it in our mind. Similar to The Matrix, this scenario is troubling to many because (unlike the "dream") there is no reality outside of the illusion except for the "demon". Thus, there is nothing to "wake up" to.

You may ask why someone would postulate such a scenario and scare the rest of us to death. The answer is that he is trying to figure out how we can have true knowledge, i.e., how can we breach the dream, defeat the demon, and arrive at truth. Modern philosophy can be seen as continual attempts to do just that.

There are the Realists, those old-fashioned followers of Plato, who assert that truth/reality is in another realm beyond us that we can reach through our reasoning powers. If you want to know what is true justice or true love (or whatever else), then spend your time contemplating the idea of justice or love, devoid of the distracting particulars of this realm.

The problem, however, is that our reasoning powers (being a part of us) seems incapable of rising above "this realm" in order to get to "that realm" of truth/reality. In the end, the demon laughs in the face of our futile reason.

Then there are the Idealists, those inscrutable followers of Kant, who assert that if we would objectively analyze thought itself, then we could discover which kinds of arguments and modes of thinking are the best for arriving at truth/reality.

The problem, however, is that we must use thinking in order to do this, and how exactly does one use thinking to transcend thinking in order to study thinking? Our very apparatus of flight is the very anchor that weighs us down.

Then there are the Phenomenologist, those mystical followers of Husserl, who assert that if we would only objectively study consciousness itself (i.e., the act of perceiving and attaching meaning), then we would unlock the secrets to truth/reality.

The problem, however, is that we must use consciousness in order to do this, and how exactly does one objectively study consciousness with their own consciousness? It is like the wings of Icarus: the closer we get to the sun, the more the wax melts away.

Finally, there are the Nominalists, those dastardly followers of Nietzsche (and his bastard philosophic children of the 20th century), who assent to the reality of the "demon" but choose to localize it in societal institutions (family, religion, tradition, custom, government, etc.) and internalize it in the self. Life is an illusion controlled by others, and the only thing to do is to wrest control from them and give it to ourselves, so that we may make our "real" self according to our own liking and in our own image.

The problem, however, is twofold: (1) We cannot (for whatever reason) function in an illusion, even one of our own making. We yearn for truth/reality, for "the real". (2) We know (though perhaps we lack the words to express it) that Nominalism is simply not true; there are realities that are real and truths that are true in spite of either us or our institutions. We will not submit to becoming the demon, nor will we admit that he is all that there is "outside".

Every single one of these rebuttals to the demon and the dream all hit the same problem (except for Nominalism, which simply accepts the demon/dream). I call it the "non-transcendence problem," and it goes something like this: (1) We know (in some way) that truth/reality exists. (2) We know (in some way) that truth/reality is beyond us. (3) We know (in some way) that we are incapable of reaching it. All of our attempts (and there have been some fantastic and terrifying attempts) to breach the glass ceiling between us and truth/reality seems to fail, and thus we are left here on our silent plant, haunted by inklings and vague apparitions that point us to a place that we can never reach. What, then, do we do?

There are typically two responses to this. First is the nihilistic surrender to life without truth/reality, a position that few take seriously. The other is far more common, and it is the position of heroic existentialism, with its rather pretentious slogan, "Have the courage to be." As odd as that sounds, most people fall into that category. They admit (perhaps subconsciously) that truth/reality is beyond them, but they are still going to strive to approximate it as best as they can. By a lifelong series of efforts, they will be as moral, factual, and authentic as they can (though without truth/reality to measure themselves by, they will never truly know how moral, factual, and authentic they are). This is the default mindset of the average secular person, even if they have never thought about it or found adequate words to express it.

I would like to posit (if I may) a third, wholly different response to the demon/dream, far more radical and essentially Christian in its essence. It goes something like this: (1) We know that truth/reality exists. (2) We know that it is beyond us. (3) We know that we cannot reach it. (4) If we cannot go to it, then our only hope is if it comes to us. The Christian Faith has a term for when truth/reality "comes to us"; it is called incarnation:

"In the beginning was the Word [logos: truth, reality; the primal voice that speaks all else into existence]...and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14).

In one simple, solely Christian phrase, the solution is found and declared: "the Word became flesh," truth/reality has come down to us. This is what theologian Oswald Chambers called the "personality of truth" (131). If truth/reality is merely a coalition of abstract maxims (profound yet dead), then it is all on us to reach them, which cannot be done. However, if truth/reality is a person, with their own powers of activity and volition, then they can reach back to us; and according to the Christian Faith, He has.

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in this last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, and by whom He also made the worlds" (Heb. 1:1-2).


Scruton, Roger. Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1994.

Chambers, Oswald. Biblical Ethics / The Moral Foundations of Life / The Philosophy of Sin. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1998.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Romance of Orthodoxy (as spoken by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is from p. 157 of G.K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill:

If all things are always the same, it is because they are always heroic. If all things are always the same, it is because they are always new. To each man one soul only is given; to each soul only is given a little power--the power at some moments to outgrow and swallow up the stars. If age after age that power comes upon men, whatever gives it to them is great. Whatever makes men feel old is mean--an empire or a skin-flint shop. Whatever makes men feel young is great--a great war or a love-story. And in the darkest of the books of God there is written a truth that is also a riddle. It is of the new things that men tire--of fashions and proposals and improvements and change. It is the old things that startle and intoxicate. It is the old things that are young.

There is no skeptic who does not feel that many have doubted before. There is no rich and fickle man who does not feel that all his novelties are ancient. There is no worshiper of change who does not feel upon his neck the vast weight of the weariness of the universe. But we who do the old things are fed by nature with a perpetual infancy. No man who is in love thinks that any one has been in love before. No woman who has a child thinks that there have been such things as children. No people that fight for their own city are haunted with the burden of the broken empires. Yes, O dark voice, the world is always the same, for it is always unexpected.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Tale of the Tor (a book review by an orthodox rebel)

Book: Glastonbury Tor, by LeAnne Hardy. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2006. 233 pgs. (including maps, prologue, and afterword)

Introduction: Forgiveness is the lifeblood of the love of God. The love of God sent His Son to forgive us of all our sins, and that same Son taught us to forgive our enemies and love one another. In short, to forgive is to live the Christ-like, God-centered life. So says LeAnne Hardy by way of her ambitious little narrative set in Glastonbury (known formerly as the Isle of Avalon) during the heyday of King Henry VIII's reign. We follow the main protagonist, Colin Hay, as he sets out to Glastonbury Abbey to escape his past and seek redemption. While there, he finds hope in unexpected places whilst wading through the overall upheaval that marked the time when the "faith-dominated High Middle Ages" clashed with and eventually gave way to "the relatively secularized Elizabethan world" (237).

Summary (w/o spoilers): Colin Hay is the youngest son of Sir Stephen, a drunken and lecherous nobleman who dominates his wife and abuses his household. Colin's mother dies while giving birth to his sister, who is born stillborn. Blaming his father for both his mother and sister's deaths, Colin attempts to kill him. He manages to badly wound him, but not before receiving a wound himself. Fearing that he was successful in his attempted murder, Colin seeks sanctuary in his home church, where the local priest, Father David, instructs him to seek shelter with Sir Stephen's cousin, a monk at Glastonbury Abbey. Tormented by feelings of hate for his father and guilt over trying to kill him, Colin leaves home hoping to do due penance at Glastonbury.

While at Glastonbury Abbey, Colin meets an array of characters: the simple yet kind-hearted stonemason turned monk, Brother Roger; the round-bellied cousin of Sir Stephen, Brother Arthur; the eccentric, yet caring abbey doctor, Brother Urban; the kindly Abbot Whiting; and the draconian, darkly suspicious Father Bede. As he lives and works amongst them and others, he comes across unsettling currents and convictions: the whisperings of Henry VIII's destructive policies against the church; the beginning fires of Protestant unrest (such as in the friendly Thatcher family); and a rumor that the Holy Grail may in fact be at Glastonbury Abbey (the historic resting place of King Arthur as well as where Joseph of Arimathea supposedly brought the Grail).

All of these things coalesce around Colin as dark forces from both without and within attempt to take control of the abbey. As Colin tries to save his friends and (even more difficultly) to do the right thing, he struggles inwardly with his own anger and guilt that seek to consume him. The wound given to him by his father (both literal and metaphorical) threatens to undo him at every turn, and unless he learns the power of forgiveness, he may lose more in the end than the abbey. He may lose his very soul.

Review (w/ minor spoilers): I called this book "ambitious" earlier because it is dealing with an issue that is near and dear to my heart and mind. There are (in general) two kinds of lives: the self-centered life and the God-centered life. By "self-centered life," I do not mean something initially or immediately evil. Such a life may be highly moral and even philanthropic; but it is still a life based upon the self: self-realization, self-actualization, self-satisfaction, self-justification, self-aggrandizement, etc. In that sense, it will inevitably lead to the corruption of one's soul. In contrast, the God-centered life sees the self and all other things and persons as peripheral to the God who made them all; identity and being are only found and realized in Him, and without Him we and all else are nothing.

This is the concept that the book deals with (or at the very least flirts with) throughout its narrative. You could very easily divide all "good" and "bad" characters into those who seek (and struggle to seek) strength and salvation from God alone (such as the Thatchers and various monks in the abbey) and those who seek strength and salvation by their own hands or the hands of another (such as Father Bede).

Colin himself is pulled between these two poles: whenever he comes into contact with individuals such as the Thatcher family, he feels the warmth and pull that comes from the God-centered/forgiving life, which thinks nothing of itself; whenever he comes into contact with individuals such as Father Bede, he feels the burning rage and wounded pride of the self-centered/vengeful life, which thinks only of itself. While the plot of the narrative deals with the outer political threats from Henry VIII and the inward spiritual threats from the abbey itself, the constant undercurrent is Colin being halted between two positions: will he forgive (and be forgiven) or will he hate and hurt himself and others?

Some affective imagery comes to bear throughout the book as well. The two most obvious in the narrative are the wound that Colin received from his father and the ever-looming presence of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Celtic god of the underworld. The wound he received is both literal and symbolic in more ways than one. More than just a injury given to him by his father, it is also killing him due to infection, which is spreading because he refuses to tell anyone about it for shame of how he got it. Out of fear and guilt, he allows it to fester, and he nearly dies from it. The deeper meaning of this is obvious (a bit too obvious, in fact, a point that shall be discussed below).

Gwyn ap Nudd is the Celtic god who escorted dead souls to hell. His home was thought to be Glastonbury Tor (a hill outside of Glastonbury Abbey; "tor" is Celtic for "hill"), and he was known for his stag-head helm, black horse, and legion of demon hunting dogs. His image appears (in dreams and in daylight) as both a symbol of his father and a literal spiritual threat. As a symbol of his father, he stirs the hatred and guilt of Colin to a boiling point. As a literal spiritual threat, he incurs Colin's fear and dread. In either case, he serves as Colin's primary supernatural antagonist.

The book is not without its flaws, mostly due to its good points not living up to their full potential. For instance, the "self-centered vs. God-centered" theme bubbles below the surface of the narrative but never really finds its voice. In its place, you get many moments of various characters simply asserting cliche calls for the need to forgive, all of which come off as more preachy than profound. In addition, the book seems to suffer from its small size, as many elements and characters feel underdeveloped. I found myself wishing that the book was at least twice as long so we could get to know the monks of the abbey and the Thatcher family better, a grand collection of characters who could have been expanded upon easily and delightfully. Also, Colin's romantic yearnings for a girl named Alice (the youngest daughter of the Thatchers) suffers from this sense of underdevelopment: Colin's non-narrated marriage proposal (or request) at the end feels equal parts arbitrary and irrelevant.

The symbolism is probably the most unfortunate casualty, however. Subtlety is a difficult art, but it is a necessary one. If your ideas and themes are not tightly woven into the narrative (its characters, events, places, and things), then they will burst forth to steal all the thunder that had been building.

Hardy's prose suffers from this many times throughout the book, an unfortunate (though not inevitable) side-effect of the story being told in first-person. Colin (who is the narrator) cannot stop giving things away. He explains away moments and events, carefully and quickly expositing their hidden meaning until they are stripped of all power and punch. For example, upon another heated confrontation with Father Bede, Colin muses, "Why did [he] always bring out the worst in me? Like my father" (124). The phrase "like my father" is completely unnecessary and robs the previous sentence of its literary power. The reader needs to make the connection between Bede and Colin's father by themselves by way of imagery, characterization, and dialogue. Giving away the hidden meaning of things takes all the fun out of reading. I gave only one example; the book is littered with dozens more, especially during the underdeveloped "romantic" moments between Colin and Alice.

This does not mean that the book is badly written. On the contrary, it has its moments, and plenty of them. I offer two. Not long after reaching the abbey, Colin meets a young, devout monk named Brother Fergus who plans to go petition the King on a journey called the "Pilgrimage of Grace". They have a discussion in a stable where Fergus shares his fears with Colin:
He looked outside the stable door to where the rain fell like a curtain that cut us off from that other world and its strife. "Father Cuthbert is prepared to lay down his life for the cause if necessary."
He broke a piece of straw into smaller and smaller pieces and dropped them onto the floor of the stable. "The thought frightens me."
I saw his lips form the words more than I heard his whisper above the rain. He shivered and shrank into himself like a half-drowned child. "My lord abbot and Prior Dunstan were tortured to get them to reveal the hiding places of our riches. It was for naught. We had already given all we had." His face was white as the bread of the Mass, his eyes dark as two bruises.
The wording and use of imagery here is solid and powerful. Fergus' fear is encapsulated in actions rather than explanations (e.g., his tearing apart the piece of straw), and the allusion to the "bread of the Mass" alludes to Fergus' sacrificial fate (the historical "Pilgrimage of Grace" did not end well) as well as his pain-filled life (e.g., "his eyes dark as two bruises"). This is all good stuff.

Another good moment of writing occurs later on, when Colin is told by a family friend that his older brother Walter has died and that he has been asked to return home. Colin gives his answer:
"I never asked to be heir. I never begrudged Walter his place. I wanted my own---to be seen for who I am."
Llwyd never moved, but something in his eyes reminded me of Mother's pain. I steeled my heart against it.
"I'm not going home," I said. "I am needed here. I, Colin Hay, have skills the monks value, skills my father laughed at. I will not be reforged in my father's image. I cannot become what he wants me to be."
I stood and looked at my childhood friend.
"Stephen Hay has no heir," I said with steady voice.
Here we see an effective use of dialogue that conveys all the meaning that we need while allowing us to connect any further dots on our own. Colin is slipping further into the self-centered life, longing so much for his own self-realization (e.g., wanting his own "place") that he can "steel" his heart against memories of his mother (whom he loved dearly). It is interesting that Colin used the word "steeled" rather than "hardened" in regard to his heart. The former sounds more positive, more manly and strong. The latter sounds more sinful and rebellious. Colin (and ultimately Hardy) chose his words carefully.

Recommendation: It is a hard thing to criticize a book because writing one (even a bad one) is a noble, hard-won endeavor, and those of us charged with critiquing it should tread softly. Having said that, Glastonbury Tor has its flaws, but it is still a fine little book all the same. It is short (read easily in a matter of days), and thus will not interest the heavy reader, but for those of you looking for a quick snack of historical drama, supernatural thriller, and theological memoir all rolled into one, Glastonbury Tor will satisfy your palate.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homily 31: The Unsearchable Goodness of God (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"...many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah...but unto none of them was Elijah sent, except unto Zarephath, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them were cleansed, except Naaman the Syrian." Luke 4:25-27

In the immediate sense, Jesus is predicting His rejection by His own people (Luke 4:24). This was also referred to by John in his gospel (John 1:11), as well as Paul in his epistle to the Romans (Rom. 11:25-32) where he states that Israel's rejection of Christ meant that the gospel has come to the gentiles, whose salvation will subsequently lead back to the salvation of Israel. Jesus' audience understood what he was saying: the blessing that he recited from Isaiah (Luke 4:18-19) was not necessarily meant for them. Thus, they tried to kill Him out of anger (Luke 4:28-29).

In a general sense, we see here that God does not abide by our preconceived notions or modes of thought. In fact, God's design is typically to upset our established notion of things, to step into our individual synagogues and overturn our private assumptions until we stop thinking in our terms and start thinking in His. This is always a struggle, perhaps even the struggle of the Christian life: to never reach a point where you have God "settled out" in your mind, where you think you know exactly how He is going to deal with you and others. Such ignorance and arrogance are always upset by God so that he may restore us to the correct posture towards Him: "O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33).

God is not random, nor is He unknowable. He has revealed Himself and His ways unto us, both by his word and by His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). In addition, He abides by principles and reason. The key is that it is His principles and His reason, which are perfect and divine and thus ultimately beyond us. The things which He has revealed are ours and our children's forever, but that which He has not revealed belong to Him (Deut. 29:29). Thus, we are creatures who "know in part" (I Cor. 13:9). For example, we know that God is good in all things in regard to His children (Rom. 8:28), but we cannot say exactly how that goodness will manifest itself in our day-to-day lives. For a season, God's goodness may even look like hate or indifference, but it is not. It is goodness, always goodness. Goodness unsearchable and past finding out, the half of which cannot be fancied this side of the golden shore. In that mystery, we rest and find hope.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Branded Butter Spread Too Thin (a book review by an orthodox rebel)

Book: Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture, by Tim Sinclair. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011. 143 pgs. (including preface, intro, and all appendixes)

Introduction: The history of 20th to 21st century Christian evangelism can be viewed as oscillating between an exercise in futility and a three-ring circus. Exactly how a child of God and follower of Christ is to effectively engage today's culture and its people while neither succumbing to its wiles nor alienating the souls attempting to be sought has proven to be a messy and frustrating affair. In Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture, author and radio personality Tim Sinclair attempts to tackle this hairy issue, bringing with it his on-air sense of humor as well as his many years of marketing experience. As explained on the book's back cover, Tim hopes to address the main problem that besets contemporary evangelism as well as to motivate and inspire us to "share our faith in ways that are honest, authentic, and---most importantly---effective."

Summary: Tim starts by explaining that Branded is not meant to be a how-to guide since there is "no one-size-fits-all methodology" to "showing and sharing Jesus" (10). We each have to create our own plan, one unique to our own circumstances. Thus, Tim plans to use his book to set a "backdrop" (viz., defining the problem and stressing the need to deal with it) while letting the reader fill in the methodological blanks.

Tim's thesis is simple: Christianity today has an "-ing" problem. We're awfully good at saying, acting, and pretending that we're Christians, but we're very bad at doing, being, and living like we're Christians (11). To put it another way, we're very good at classifying ourselves but lousy at living out that classification as though it were real: we can talk the talk, but we fail to walk the walk. As a result, we come off as hypocritical, insincere, and unauthentic.

In order to "compensate" for this "deficit," we create an impenetrable illusion of authenticity by using things to "brand" our relationship to Jesus. By the use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, posting the right quotes, listening to the right radio stations, etc., we market Jesus to the world and (so we hope) create an image of authentic Christianity (11-12). Tim's response to this futile technological web-weaving sets the tone for the whole book: "Sharing Jesus with today's culture" has nothing to do with branding Jesus; rather, it "has everything to do with being personally branded by Christ" (12). If we want Christ taken seriously, then we need to start taking Him and our relationship to Him seriously.

Tim spends the whole of the book's thirteen chapters drilling down on this idea, first by explaining the main problem for 21st century evangelism: We live in a post-Christian world (13-15) where Christianity no longer has the "monopoly" over culture that it once had (28). Thus, we can no longer take our faith for granted, which has done nothing but give us a passionless Christianity (28) and a valueless Christ (33). In a post-Christian world were every viewpoint is consider equally valid, Christianity cannot afford such a state of affairs in its own house. It must once again passionately believe that Jesus matters.

Tim lays down several key principles that he (more or less) repeats throughout the book: in sharing Jesus, it is our methods that need to change, not our message (20-23); the Jesus we present must be based on the real thing, which only comes if we have had (and continue to have) actual contact with the real thing (37); and everybody has a different culture/perspective, and we must share Jesus in the language of "that person's reality" (43). In the end, Branded's overall point can be summed up in this way: sharing Jesus with others must be based on a diehard, sincere conviction that Jesus is truly "the best" choice out there (20), a conviction born out of our own relationship to Him (73). In doing so, our witnessing will be personal (71) and honest (84), producing a life based on Christ-like love (88), which is the true foundation for all evangelism: "Unless a person has actually seen Jesus in you and me, God's words aren't going to mean a lot" (92).

Review: I enjoyed this book and found most of what it said to be absolutely true. My only real problem with it is its thinness of content. Tim's decision to avoid presenting any strict or solid "methodology" was sincere in its good intentions but hurt the book overall. His call for a more "relational," "authentic," and "passionate" Christianity is a valid concern, but it becomes repetitious halfway through, and your interest isn't really piqued again until the last chapter where he outlines his list of "radical" ideas of how we can show ourselves to be branded by Christ (rather than simply branding Him). Here he offered concrete, practical advice that truly grabbed and engaged the mind, but it was only given one chapter. The book could have used more of this methodological approach and a lot less "backdropping". 

Branded is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. There are just so many wasted potentialities. His critique of our secular marketing approach to evangelism (especially in regard to Facebook and Twitter) is timely and needs to be restated, for our evangelism is in danger of drowning in a shallow, johnny-come-lately culture of our own making. In addition, Tim's approach to sharing Jesus is highly incarnational (as opposed to the deferential nature of market-driven evangelism), viz., evangelism must be about the incredible collision between the real Jesus and the specific cultural universe of  the individual being evangelized. Furthermore, Tim heavily stresses a meeting of head and heart when sharing Jesus, a principle perfectly stated in what is easily the money quote of the whole book: "That's the beauty of a relationship with Christ. It's designed to be a combination of head and heart. Of knowing and feeling. Of what the Bible says is true and what we experience to be true in our daily lives" (90). Such beautifully stated truths are littered all throughout the book, but they are given cursory glances at best. In truth, every one of them could have been made into their own book.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book as a starting point. Its truths are not new, nor are they incredibly fleshed out, but they are still necessary. Its "radical" ideas in the last chapter, as well as its "Discussion Questions" appendix, make it a good introductory text for a bible study on evangelism. Tim's tone and style is easy to understand, and the whole book could be read in one sitting and still be edifying. If you want meatier fare, however, I suggest that you look elsewhere.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2011

Take Courage, Child of Light (thus saith the Eternal Orthodox Rebel)

This then is the message which we have heard from Him and declare unto you: God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. And in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men; and the light shines in darkness, and the darkness is powerless before it. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; the Dayspring on High hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace, giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints of light. He hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.

Brethren, the darkness is past, and the true light now shines. I say unto you, Arise! Shine! For thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Thus saith the Lord, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage! Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned." Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.

(adapted from I John, John, Luke, Colossians, Isaiah, Joshua, and the Psalms)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why Liberalism and Postmodernism Will Always Fail (as expalined by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is from p. 148 of G.K. Cheserton's Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is not only (as is often urged) the only safe guardian of morality and order, but is also the only logical guardian of liberty, innovation, and advance.

If we wish to pull down the prosperous oppressor, we cannot do it with the new doctrine of human perfection; we can do it with the old doctrine of Original Sin. If we want to uproot inherent cruelties or lift up lost populations, we cannot do it with the scientific theory that matter precedes mind; we can do it with the supernatural theory that mind precedes matter. If we wish specially to awaken people to social vigilance and tireless pursuit of practice, we cannot help it much by insisting on the Immanent God and the Inner Light, for these are at best reasons for contentment; we can help it much by insisting on the transcendent God and the flying and escaping gleam, for that means divine discontentment. If we wish particularly to assert the idea of a generous balance against that of a dreadful autocracy, we shall instinctively be Trinitarian rather than Unitarian. If we desire...civilization to be a raid and a rescue, we shall insist rather that souls are in real peril than that their peril is ultimately unreal. And if we wish to exalt the outcast and the crucified, we shall rather wish to think that a veritable God was crucified, rather than a mere sage or hero.