The Power of Story

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The modern Christian’s reading habits when it comes to scripture are intriguing. Speaking in the broadest categories, it would be safe to say that many, if not a majority of Christians spend most of their time in the New Testament and very little time—for a variety of reasons—in the Old Testament. This is not to imply that the New Testament is any less valuable, wonderful, or true than the Old. Not at all. The Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles all have their value. However, there is a difference in language between the New Testament (especially the Epistles) and the Old, and I do not speak of the fact that one is predominantly written in Hebrew, and the other Greek.

The language I speak of is almost as dramatically different as Hebrew and Greek are different from each other. The language of the Epistles which form a large part of the New Testament is exactly that: that of epistles, of letters. They are, one could say, almost purely prescriptive in nature. They address problems. They address practicalities, which is all well and good and certainly needed, and valuable. The language of the Old Testament is predominantly that of Story. By story, I do not mean fiction. I mean story, in the sense that a really excellent, gripping history of say, Winston Churchill, is story. It is largely descriptive rather than prescriptive in nature. We see, if the teller of the story has done his job, the good, the not so good, and the downright bad in the life of a person.

Think of the films in our culture that are always huge successes. You don’t hear about documentaries, or “nonfiction,” or even the thrillers and mysteries, making billions of dollars at the box office. It’s films like The Lord of the Rings, Jurassic World, Avatar, and the Star Wars franchise that are predictably enormous hits. Story is the language that humanity in general seems to speak the best—across cultures and continents. And it seems, the more fantastic the story, so much the better.

Now let us return to the aforementioned scripture reading habits of the average 21st Century Christian. Prescriptive material is certainly good: if you have a problem it is natural to want a prescription for it—a solution to the problem. However, one does not survive on medicine (prescription). Medicine can address a specific problem or abnormality. But one cannot live on it. One lives on food, or in the case of scripture “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” If one looks at Scripture, the largest portion of it (the Old Testament) is nearly entirely Story. It’s not medicine, it’s food. It has flavor, texture. It nourishes. It warms—or chills, the soul and spirit. It shows people at their extraordinary best, and their depraved worst. It shows the interaction of God with people. It’s descriptive.

What stories the Old Testament gives us! It gives us the tragic fall of Man from perfection and relationship with God, and even in that story foreshadows the redemption of Man. It tells us of a man named Abram who is called by a God he never knew, to go on a radical and seemingly insane journey to a land he’d never seen. It tells us of Saul, a man who is anointed king and tragically descends into outright disobedience and rebellion against God. It tells us of David—a man who starts life as a shepherd boy and eventually becomes Saul’s successor. It tells us of 450 prophets of Baal who had a confrontation with a man called Elijah, and more importantly of the confrontation between their god and Elijah’s God. It tells in poetic foreshadowing in Isaiah of the incarnation of Christ and of his sacrifice for fallen Man. We have in the Psalms extravagant, raw expression of emotion and beautiful worship. We have in the Song of Songs an almost embarrassingly honest look at romantic love in it’s different expressions.

The Old Testament speaks a language that in all of humanity seems to be the most natural. And yet, it is the Old Testament that is probably the most neglected by Christians, with the exception of perhaps the Psalms. If Story is the language that overall comes most naturally to us, then why would we not spend more time reading the tremendous stories that the Old Testament gives us? Absorb these stories and replay the lives of the heroes and villains that it paints portraits of. Medicine has its place and is of great help and even comfort, but food is just as necessary: for nourishment and for enjoyment. Come. Eat and drink deeply. Enjoy. Ponder. Be filled.

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Winston Churchill: A Profile in Persistence

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When one thinks of good qualities in a person there are many that may come to mind: integrity, intelligence, common sense, willingness to work with others, even, one might say “niceness”. Certainly, a majority of people would agree that most or all of these are good qualities in a person. However, there is a quality that we don’t think as much about, one that can be good or bad, but one that we tend to think of as bad, especially when it manifests itself in a very public figure, and especially when that public figure goes against the established way of thinking.

We’ll call this quality persistence, but it is really more complicated than that, and one could perhaps in a descriptor of this quality also add the word stubbornness. The dictionary defines persistence as: “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” Stubbornness is defined as: “dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something.” We don’t always like people with these “qualities.” They annoy us. Sometimes with good reason. They can be impossible to work with, which can do more harm than good in many situations. And yet, there are examples where this quality has been of supreme helpfulness, and times where all of us could benefit from a dose of this character trait.

As a specimen of this quality we will take a leader from the 20th Century: Sir Winston Leonard-Spencer Churchill. He was famous, or infamous for his possession of this quality. Yet the world is fortunate that he possessed it—for it was this quality that almost certainly above all else, pulled him and the world through what for a longtime seemed like a hopeless war with Adolf Hitler and National Socialism.

Churchill was not necessarily known for being the best “people person” at times. He wasn’t always exactly a “nice” person. Even his own definition of “tact” illustrates this: “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” He was known to be a rather disagreeable character at times, and for often being much too blunt, at least for some people’s thin skins. It is accurate to say that Churchill was stubborn. It’s accurate to say that he could at times be a person that was not necessarily pleasant to be around. Yet his stubbornness had a root. His persistence possessed a foundation. A little, innocuous thing. Four little letters, a word that we claim to profoundly dislike today: truth.

He placed an enormous value on truth, saying of it: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” If he was persistent in something it was because of conviction. It was a deep-seated confidence in the truth, and in its importance. A confidence we are pitifully lacking in today. Churchill even quipped, “Truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Persistence, even mind-boggling persistence, is of the utmost value when it has a foundation in truth, in conviction, and in belief.

Contrast this with much of the persistence demonstrated today. We persist in what we are comfortable in. We persist in what we think will result in the most monetary gain for us in the least amount of time. For an extra five or ten thousand dollars a year, many people are willing to condemn their souls to the dull, meaningless existence of what may as well be a prison. Leaders persist in a course of action or an idea as long as it profitable, or as long as it is election season, then mysteriously lose both their conviction and their resolve.

Churchill in the early years before the outbreak of war was not popular for his predictions of what Germany would become, and what the result would be. Yet popularity has very little to do with truth. Anti-Semitism was quite popular for a time, but very few today would dare to claim that its basis was upon any sort of truth. Even when war broke out, Churchill’s views and courses of action were very unpopular. Few wanted war, and most viewed it as unnecessary, far easier to attempt to appease Hitler, and Neville Chamberlain attempted this approach, to ultimate failure. And when war was certain, and Britain stood alone—Austria, Poland and France gone, the United States unwilling to get involved—Churchill held out. Surrender wasn’t an option. He was quite prepared to himself die should invasion come, though only after taking as many of the Nazis with him as he could. Slowly—in an incredible feat—he infused this view into the general population, this persistence. His speeches reflect this willingness to go onto the end, to stick with conviction. At Harrow School on October 29th, 1941, Churchill uttered these famous words:

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished.

Churchill wouldn’t give up. Everyone told him that it was useless to attempt to resist the ascendant Nazi state, now in control of most of Europe. Churchill wouldn’t swallow this line. He would fight. The island of Britain would fight, as he stated so eloquently after Dunkirk:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Churchill’s intention, and the intention that he eventually brought the majority of the nation to, was to fight. He would not give up. He would persist. And as elaborated on in his speech, even if the island of Great Britain fell, the Empire would go on fighting. He, and the Empire, would fight until the very bitter end. In retrospect of course, we admire his persistence. At the time it might have been a little harder to see the value in it. When German bombs were falling on London every night, this persistence might seem like foolhardiness, or even an evil. Margery Allingham wrote thus of Churchill:

Mr. Churchill is the unchanging bulldog, the epitome of British aggressiveness and the living incarnation of the true Briton in fighting, not standing any damned nonsense, stoking the boilers with grand piano, and enjoying it-mood. Also he never lets go. He is so designed that he cannot breathe if he does. At the end of the fight he will come crawling in, unrecognizable, covered with blood, and delighted, with the enemy’s heart between his teeth.

A perhaps less than comfortable description. One that one feels the average politician today, or the average person, would not really like to have used of them. Yet here again it was a persistence based firmly on Churchill’s perception of the truth, on “convictions of honor.” He had seen, and continued to see, the nature of his enemy clearly—and he saw what the consequences of submission would be, and thus, whether it meant continuing on alone, or with support, he continued the fight. A striking contrast to many people, leaders, and politicians of today—and even of his time.

People of today would do well to learn from his persistence, and from the foundation his persistence was based on. This persistence founded in “convictions of honor and good sense” is something that is sadly and profoundly lacking in many today. How many major problems of the past and the present, could have been resolved while still small problems if this was a common quality. And how many large problems could still be confronted and resolved in the end if Churchill’s perhaps most remembered quality was something we endeavored to study, to imitate, and to put into practice.

Power in the Name of Jesus

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Consider names. Each person has one. People may also have nicknames–good or bad–reflecting certain perceived traits of that person. Some names are well known, or rather the persons they are attached to are well known, and others are not. Consider some names: St. Paul, Judas Iscariot, J.R.R. Tolkien, Richard Dawkins, C.S. Lewis, Harrison Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush. Each a well known name, and each bringing to mind certain good, bad or neutral traits and incidents depending on one’s view point and knowledge of the person. Names also bear meanings in many languages. Think of some of the names of God in the Old Testament: El Shaddai (all sufficient one, or God almighty), and Jehovah Jireh (God will provide). Names can have importance.

Names can also have power depending on the person than bears the name. For instance a messenger from a monarchial nation might go to another nation “in the name of the king or queen.” An ambassador from the United States to another country conducts affairs in the name of the President and government of the United States. Within certain contexts the name of the President bears weight, power, and authority, beyond what my name or your name does.

When Christians pray, consider a common ending to their prayers: “In Jesus’ name.” They pray, they petition, they ask, thank, command by a higher authority. On their own they have no authority, the same as an ambassador has no authority apart from the President and government. But their leader, their king, lends them his authority. They can speak in the name of the king–in the name of Jesus Christ. There are numerous instances of this in scripture in different contexts. Matthew 28:18-20 says: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Here is the investing of that authority as ambassadors. Here Jesus gives permission and authority to preach the gospel to the nations: preaching and teaching about him, and in his name. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he refers to himself as “an ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:20). In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God.”

In John 14:13-14 Jesus says: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Acts 3 records a story of Jesus working through his ambassadors in a dramatic way. “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong” Acts 3:1-8.

When days are dark, when the outlook of the future is grim, remember this, Jesus Christ the God we serve is a powerful God. There is power in his name, granted to those who love and serve him. “I [Jesus] have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” John 16:33.

Keep Running

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The race or athletic event is a favorite metaphor in the New Testament epistles. It is used in 1 Corinthians 9:24, and in Hebrews 12, as an example of the Christian life, or more specifically the journey the Christian makes. The apostle Paul says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable . So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified,” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV.

The metaphor of a runner in a race is one that would have been well known and understood in Paul’s day. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans competed in foot races. It was (and is) one of the events held in the Olympic games. There are depictions on ancient Greek pottery of foot races. The writer of Hebrews expands upon the metaphor, bringing an audience into the illustration: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood,” Hebrews 12:1-4, ESV.

A great crowd of spectators is introduced, those who have already completed the race, perhaps in a stadium or along the path of a marathon. They’re all watching intently as those still on earth run the journey of the Christian life. Look to Jesus for an example of how to run the race. Eugene Peterson translates the passage this way: “Do you see what this means–all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running–and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1-4, MSG.

Look to Jesus to sustain you while running the race. Look to Jesus for the much needed boost. Look to Jesus to lift you up when you stumble while running. Look to Jesus, fixate on him as you run for the finish line. Look to Jesus; keep running.

I Know That I Know That I Know

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What is faith? What are some of the attributes of faith? Not a faith, as in Christianity, or Judaism, but faith. What is the faith that is spoken of in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (ESV)” or as the Message puts it “trust in God,” a “handle on what we can’t see.”

Hebrews 11 goes on to give examples of faith: Abel, Noah, Joseph, and many others. The first part of verse 1 says that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” The Greek word translated as assurance is ὑπόστασις. The King James Version translates it as the “substance of things hoped for,” rather than assurance. Assurance. Substance. Hope. This is not a foolish hope. It’s not “If I hope long enough, hard enough, and well enough, I am assured of getting a new Ferrari.” It’s not “If I hope long enough, hard enough, and well enough, I am assured of a life without trouble.” It is a trust in God. It is “I am assured of my hope in a savior—Christ—that came to earth two thousand years ago in human form, lived among humans, was crucified, and rose again. It is trust that whatever this Hope says will happen, will.

“Now faith is the…conviction of things not seen.” Here we go back again to the Hope. Though people two thousand years ago saw Christ and walked with him in the flesh, we have faith, we have conviction that he is real, that he is who and what he says he is, even though we do not see him. We have faith and conviction that his promises are true, that whatever he says and promises will happen even though we perhaps do not see it now. Noah built an ark on the “conviction of things not seen.” Abraham waited for a son, and for descendants as many as the stars, on the “conviction of things not seen.” It’s “I know that I know that I know. I know that God is real. I have knowledge of his realness. I have knowledge of him. I know that he will keep his promises. I know that I know that I know.”

 

 

 

Considering the Classical Education

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That great English writer, G.K. Chesterton once claimed that: “Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death (Chesterton).” An astute observation. It is a maxim that the monolith institution of education would do well to contemplate and observe. This does not mean education as the act of learning, but the way by which one learns what one learns. As with many other institutions, the established method of education has been demolished. The combined arrogance of the living masses has said, “Why respect the dead? Why use the established methods?” But then forgotten to address adequately the equally important question: “Why not?”

The progressive living have questioned the slower dead, and eventually find that the democracy of the dead answers back implacably: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me (Job 38:2-3).” 

Before proceeding to definitions, the purpose of this paper should be clarified. It is not to argue that classical education should be reinstated exactly as it was, nor that all modern methods have no worth. The purpose of this paper is to show that the classical education should not be dismissed so quickly, and at least the fundamental methods and spirit of it should be resurrected. Now, on to definitions.

To define method. Method is that which education (the institution) uses to teach students. It is the model used. It is the structural backbone of the process—the set of rules by which the game is played. These rules may be strict, or loose, but they are rules nonetheless. The structure may be complex or simple, but nonetheless it is structure. One of these structures, one of these sets of rules—a “tradition” and “democracy of the dead”—that has fallen by the wayside is the classical education. The form of education that the vast democracy aforementioned learned by. The form in which some of the most formidable minds ever were forged and sharpened. Beginning perhaps with Socrates, and continuing down through the ages. The founders of the United States were trained in this way, authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and war heroes such as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

Classical education also needs to be defined. It has been established that it is a time-honored method of learning. Tracy Lee Simmons says of classical education:

We find that, in an instructed age, the old regimen needs not only defending but also defining. Once classical education pointed to an elite course of instruction based upon Greek and Latin, the two great languages of the classical world. But it also delved into the history, philosophy, literature, and art of the Greek and Roman worlds, affording over time to the more perspicacious devotees a remarkably high degree of cultural understanding, an understanding that endured and marked the learner for life. Classical education was classical immersion. Students in the great and exclusive Public Schools of England were once made to learn far more about the archons of Greek city-states and emperors of Rome, and commit to memory far more lines of Greek and Roman poetry and drama, than they ever had to learn about Tudors and Stuarts, about Chaucer and Shakespeare. But the languages never took second seat: mastering them came first, and doing so became the crowning achievement of a classical education. Why? Because knowledge and information were not quite enough.

Classical education did not set itself to instilling knowledge alone; it also sought to polish and refine. And neither rigor nor beauty in one’s use of language obtained firmly without Greek and Latin. Together they provided both a mental gymnastic and a training in taste. (Simmons 3).

For centuries, the Greek and Latin languages have been integral to an education—to a classical education. It is asked why study Latin which is essentially dead, and the old forms of Greek? It certainly is not economically practical, and won’t likely lead to a six-figure salary. It’s not progressive. It certainly doesn’t fit with the modern, ever more career oriented, education. M.D. Aeschliman comments:

Isaac Kandel was an English Jew who emigrated in 1908 from England to the United States, not out of persecution but out of a desire for more education and employment opportunities, like my own father from Geneva about a decade later. Highly educated at Manchester in the classics, German, and the new field of education, he went to America to do a doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University, the national and international center of the “Progressive” educational movement identified with John Dewey. For twenty subsequent years, first as a doctoral student and then as a professor at Teachers College, Kandel was an appreciative “Progressive.” But in the 1930s he began to worry about the central tenets of the increasingly dominant educational Progressivism: a naive faith in the child’s capacity to direct his own learning; a derogation of books and learned traditions; a hatred or contempt for the civilized past and its achievements, including organized religion and ethics; a simplistic faith in the capacity of the natural-science paradigm to direct all personal and social growth; social and political utopianism; ethical relativism; and perpetual experimentalism (Aeschliman).

“A derogation of books and learned traditions.” This sounds eerily familiar. “A hatred or contempt for the civilized past and its achievements” or the “democracy of the dead.” Now a certain amount of progressiveness in education is acceptable, especially within certain fields. The field of science for example is quite fluid and so it is natural and acceptable that what is taught and even the method of teaching should change over time. However, methods in certain fields of education should not be so quickly razed, namely the fields to which a classical education applies: rhetoric, literature, history, language, and logic. Rhetoric, literature, history and language are all taught today, but in vastly different ways than of old. Logic is taught, but not nearly as much as it used to be.

The classical education trained the student how to think. Through a rigorous grounding in the aforementioned disciplines—through a training in formal logic—one learned to exercise the mental faculties in the way that Socrates, Plato, and many others did. As Simmons put it, it was a “mental gymnastic.” The classical education was about addressing problems by a certain method. It is a sort of strength conditioner, but also a lens by which the student views the world. The classical education was about learning the Greek and Latin languages and the history connected to them. It is this attitude: “Come now, let us reason together… (Isaiah).” Let us reason together by a well proven method. Let us reason together as Socrates reasoned, as Aristotle reasoned, as Tolkien reasoned, and as Chamberlain reasoned.

Perhaps this is too much to ask in the current age. But at the least, the classical education could involve a thorough grounding in the history, the thought, and religion of western civilization, for the classical education is by nature a product of the west. Whether the current western institutions like it or not, the classical education is their inheritance.  The directed, mental gymnastics program—the inheritance—was rejected and replaced too quickly and too violently with, “a naïve faith in the child’s capacity to direct his own learning.” The democracy of the dead has been silenced by the oligarchy of the living.

 

Works Cited

Aeschliman, M.D. “Why We Always Need Socrates: Some Unfashionable, Unprogressive Thoughts on  Teachers, Teaching, Curriculum, and the Theory of Knowledge, with Reference and Thanks to Socrates, Pascal, and C.S. Lewis.” Journal of Education (2007).

Chesterton, G.K. “Ethics of Elfland.” Orthodoxy. Print.

Isaiah. Isaiah. ESV. Crossway. Print.

Job. Job. Crossway. Print.

Simmons, Tracy Lee. Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Print.

 

 

A Letter in the Tradition of Screwtape

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My Dear Scumglob,

This is a letter to commend you and your department’s excellent work in the United States. You are to be rewarded for your masterful inciting of mobs. It is fantastic the success you’ve achieved in getting them to riot over just about anything. Even more gratifying is the fact that you’ve gotten it to transcend their petty political “parties.” Continue this work. Make sure though that you do not grow lazy. Continue to lead them on in the deception that they are rioting—the word they use flippantly for any manner of disturbance is “protesting”—for a cause, whether it be what they call freedom, or rights, or religion (freedom of, or freedom from—it doesn’t matter).

There are all sorts of ways you can continue on in the deception. Make sure you brief your under-rabble-rousers about the importance of always obscuring the true reason for “protesting” behind a cause—it doesn’t matter what cause, as said before. But they cannot be allowed to realize the real reasons of the protests, whether they be protestor or observers of the protestors. They above all cannot be allowed time to take in the Enemy’s abominable words about the “man of lawlessness.” Lead them on in the deception that they are working to better the laws. If you twist their thinking enough, eventually they will come to regard even vandalism and violence as steps to democracy, freedom, and “fair” laws. Get them to think they are fighting for something, anything. But, do not let them see the reality behind the mobs. Do not let them see that they are “protesting” as a mere front for their own idolatry. It doesn’t matter what the offending article is, just so long as it offends their own authority. The most favorable circumstance is where each and every one of the vermin is his own little god. Of course, he must not be allowed to actually think on this. Again, let him blame his actions on a cause, on a right. They must never be allowed to think even for a moment that they riot because they are angry, or because something has infringed upon their individual deity.

For example, the rights they always squabbling about. This has been a brilliant play on our part, getting them to think of their wants and desires (however irrational or foolish) as rights. They want this, so they talk about it as a basic human right. They don’t like authority, so they claim that they are being brutalized. Always get them to act as their own god, but don’t ever let them see that they are, or so much as think about idolatry. Once you have gotten each of them to be his own little god—and not even realize it—you will have achieved a real victory. You’ll find it endlessly amusing, watching them fight over the smallest things, all because you’ve managed to create a pantheon of gods 350 million in number. But do keep these fights on small issues. Don’t let them expend energy really fighting for something other than their own theocracy. If you can get them each to be their own god, much of the game will be won, and they are safely on the path to the halls of Our Father Below.

Yours truly,

Gripegrouse

Chief Rabble Rouser

Department for the Advancement of Anarchy (DAA)

666 Abaddon Drive

The Abyss, Hell

An Ode to the Pen

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It is a well (or not so well) acknowledged fact that writing with a pen is superior to writing on a computer. I say this in all seriousness as I type this out on a word processor—an ugly term for something used for a noble art.  I am a romantic— as such, a computer fails to satisfy as a well-crafted fountain pen does. I would much rather listen to the scratch of the metal nib of a dip pen on paper, than to the monotonous patter of plastic keys being struck.

Some would argue that it is easier to write on a computer, and it is. Some would argue that writing on a computer makes for neater documents. It does (though I’ve never been one for documents, and reports, and other such business sounding creatures). In fifty years from now when most of our modern authors are dead, they will display their computers in museums, with the glorified word processing document that contains the author’s last work open on a screen only growing more pixelated with time. And it will interest me not at all.  No, in fifty years, it will still be the cuneiform tablets of the Sumerians, carved into clay tablets; the Norse works engraved with sweat (and blood) into stone tablets; the elegant handwritten letters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, scratched out with a real pen, on real paper, in the midst of the American Civil War; and the monolithic manuscript of The Lord of the Rings, in all its messy, unorganized glory, that hold my attention and most likely the attention of others.

When I finish a manuscript, laboriously scratching it out with a pen as if dipped in my own blood, I look back and see the carnage of ink and paper of a battle long fought, and costly. Words, sentences, paragraphs, scratched out, as if condemned at the executioner’s block. I see the corpses of drafts that were, and that shall be laid to rest in dignity in a drawer of my desk. I see stains of coffee, and tea, forever a testament to the work that went into the newly fledged creature that the public will see.

So, while it may be easier, I will not yet utterly bend the knee to the Tyrant Computer.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

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All humans fall into one of two categories: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. There are major, if not antithetical differences between the two. One is death; the other is life. One is suffering; the other is joy. One is essentially a doctrine of introversion; the other of extroversion. Those who are without Christ (in Adam) are dead. They are without repentance destined for hell.
The attributes of being in Adam are every type of sin: murder, slander, envy, lust, malice, and many others. A person who is in Adam may seem a virtuous pagan (and it can be debated whether there is such a thing), but even if there are virtuous pagans it is doubtful that the majority of moderns can live up to it. Without Christ, even if virtuous pagans existed, most surely are destined to hell. Sin is something that corrupts at first quietly. It eats away from the inside, destroying the soul as a tree is destroyed from the inside by rot. Humans are not attacked externally, but rather from the inside out, like a hereditary disease or deformity.
The attributes of one who is in Christ are listed in Galatians. They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.” These are the polar opposites of the fruits of sin. Love instead of murder. Kindness instead of malice. Patience instead of envy or lust. Focus on other people, and ultimately on God, rather than the self.
When one is in Adam, it is as if one is in a family. We are descendants, and inherit a sin nature. Even if we did not inherit it, it is quite likely that we would still fall. We are in Adam, and because of this worthy of death: eternal death. When one repents and becomes a Christ-Follower, one is literally removed from Adam and place in the family and inheritance of Christ. The sinner is absolved, and the inheritance of guilt removed. Justice through Christ’s death is satisfied, and those who choose to accept it, are saved from eternal damnation.
If one is in Adam one is dead in the spirit. When one accepts Christ one is raised again with him, in spirit when one accepts Christ, and destined to be raised again in body at the end of the world as we know it.

The Nature of Evil in Beowulf

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Through out the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, there are numerous vivid portrayals of the nature of evil. All three have a few things in common, including greed, or perhaps more appropriately, the stronger description: lust.   Grendel, the Mother of Grendel, and the Dragon are all evil, all three are interesting portrayals of evil.
Let us start with Grendel. Grendel is described as a descendant of Cain, as are his kin: the orcs, elves, demons, and such. Cain it will be recalled committed the first recorded case of murder. Grendel’s first and most overwhelming characteristic is a blood-lust, and battle-lust. The portrayal of his slayings depict him as savage, and reveling in the spilling of the blood of mortal men. Grendel’s main trait then, apart from greed, is blood-lust: brutality, savagery, murder, and related characteristics. Grendel is the first, and perhaps most blunt and savage depiction of evil in Beowulf.
Grendel’s mother, despite her relationship to Grendel, is quite different. She is described as weaker, and she uses cunning to exact vengeance. She does not seem to revel in blood shed as her son did. When she visits the halls of the Danes to exact vengeance for Beowulf’s killing of her son, she enters without fanfare, and seizes one man. And unlike Grendel, she bears him away, rather than slaying him there in front of his comrades. The mother of Grendel is cunning and less blunt than Grendel himself. Her overwhelming characteristic is pure malice. Of all the evils portrayed in Beowulf, she (in my mind at least) is the most like Satan, even more so than the Dragon.
The Dragon is the most primeval of the evils portrayed. The Dragon could be said to be the personification of greed, or more accurately, lust. The dragon broods over its hoard of gold, never enjoying it, but lusting after every part of it, down to the last coin. Through out the various mythologies and epic poetry, the dragon is always portrayed this way. The Dragon is a sickness. Fafnir, in Norse poetry, is cunning, and ends up eventually corrupting a great many people. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Smaug is quite like both the Dragon of Beowulf, and like Fafnir. In the films of the book, the “dragon sickness” is done quite well. Smaug is first and foremost a cunning and greedy creature, and so it is with the Dragon of Beowulf.
Evil in Beowulf has one thing in common: lust. Lust is at the root of all the evils in Beowulf, and it can be argued was the beginning of sin. Eve lusted after the apple. Humans lust for power, wealth, and other more abstract things. Lust is what the three great evils of Beowulf have in common.