Friday, December 24, 2010

The Abolition of Man

I just finished reading The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis for the second time. I enjoyed reading it both times and even more the second. Here are the closing words to the last chapter:

The kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost. But you cannot go on 'explaining away' for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on 'seeing through' things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to 'see through' first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To 'see through' all things is the same as not to see.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Slovenliness of Our Language

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the
English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we
cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is
decadent, and our language--so the argument runs--must inevitably share
in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse
of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to
electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the
half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an
instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have
political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence
of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause,
reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an
intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because
he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely
because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the
English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are
foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to
have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible.
Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which
spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take
the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more
clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political
regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and
is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

- George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dostoevsky on Beauty and Happiness

"The horror of it is that beauty is not only a terrifying thing - it
is also a mysterious one. In it the Devil struggles with God, and the
field of battle is the hearts of men."

- Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Part I, Book III: Voluptuaries, Chapter 3: The Confessions of an Ardent Heart. In Verse

"If I seem so happy to you, you could never say anything that would please me so much. For men are made for happiness, and anyone who is completely happy has a right to say to himself, 'I am doing God's will on earth.' All the righteous, all the saints, all the holy martyrs were happy."

- Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Part I,
Book II: An Unfortunate Gathering, Chapter 4: A Lady of Little Faith


The Hebrew word "ba'al" means master or possessor. Ba'al worship was often in contention with Yahweh throughout Israel's history.

When a rich ruler inquired about eternal life, Jesus mentions the commandments then He tells him to sell his possessions:

"He said to him, 'You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” (Luke 18:22)

When talking to His disciples, Jesus says, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." (Luke 12:32)

The good Samaritan gave away his possessions, to include his time, oil, wine, transportation, housing and money to help his naked, beaten and needy neighbor:

"A Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'" (Luke 10:33-35)

The early Church was quite selfless with their possessions:

"No one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common." (Acts 4:32)

In Canto VII of the Divine Comedy, the fourth circle of Hell was reserved for the avaricious and prodigal. Dante observes as each group pushed weights opposite directions in a ringed ditch until crashing into each other, turning around and repeating the process for eternity:

"They clashed together, and then at that point
Each one turned backward, rolling retrograde,
Crying, 'Why keepest?' and, 'Why squanderest thou?'"

Even the nature of color and light can teach us something about possessions. With light, black absorbs all colors and white reflects all colors. White is selfless, giving away all colors and it is seen as white. Black hoards all colors. It possesses. It is a selfish thing. And it is black.

The Christmas season and spirit of giving that accompanies this time of year is upon us. I think this is good, but it should be a year round lifestyle for those who claim the name of Christ. There is a common thread that runs throughout all of the things mentioned above and it is selflessness and a spirit of giving. Jesus said, that He had come to give us life and to give it abundantly, but first we have to give away our lives. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40)

Tocqueville's Prophecy

In 1840, the second volume of Democracy in America was published. The following is Tocqueville's vision of soft despotism that could take hold in America.

"I want to imagine with what new features despotism could be produced in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn and apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the others: his children and his particular friends form the whole human species for him; as for dwelling with his fellow citizens, he is beside them, but he does not see them; he touches them and does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone, and if a family still remains for him, one can at least say that he no longer has a native country.

Above these an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?"

- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II, Part 4, Chapter VI: What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I don't pay attention to the lyrics. I just like the beat. Disregard the propagation of sexual licentiousness, rebellion, disorder, vanity, promiscuity, drunkenness, and anything else that is contrary to beauty, truth, holiness and God glorification. I like the beat! This embodies the mindset most have with respect to music selection. In The Republic, Socrates discusses at length the power of music and its affect on those who listen, specifically its ability to influence politics. Plato, Socrates' student, observes the folly of disregarding right and wrong in music.

"Through foolishness they, the people, deceived themselves into
thinking that there was no right or wrong in music, that it was to be
judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave, as it was, the criterion
was not music, but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a
spirit of law-breaking." (Plato, The Laws, Book III)

Athens observes this spirit of law-breaking as a result of music, but Jerusalem gives an account of this happening as a precursor to music. In Genesis, Cain killed Abel, the first recorded act of violence. Lamech followed as his progeny, who was the first to take two wives, the first recorded act of sexual immorality. Lamech had a son named Jubal who "was the father of all who play the harp and flute." (Genesis 4:23-24) This is the first time music is mentioned in history.

This is not to say that music is evil. Music is not inherently evil or inherently good. It is a neutral medium that can be used for evil or good. Music is to glorify God and that is its proper function. Its propensity for evil is strong in this crooked and depraved generation, so be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves when making your music selection. (Matthew 10:16)

The most powerful example of good music, that I have been part of, is when the audience stands in one accord during the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel's Messiah. God is glorified in such music.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Patriotism And Reasons Why

John Adams wrote that a patriot must be a "religious man." The Christian's faith calls him to civic duty - knowing the needs of neighbors and meeting them, demonstrating faith with works of charity. The Christian patriot, after all, spends more time washing feet than waving flags. And in flags he sees symbols, not of military or economic might, but of the common good of the specific people a sovereign God has given him to serve. That's patriotism in its place, a patriotism worth singing about - and even dying for. (Charles Colson, The God of Stones and Spiders, Ch. 39: On Waving Flags and Washing Feet)

I have had a very difficult time answering people why I joined the Marine Corps. Not because there is nothing to say, but because there is so much to say. There are many factors that go into that decision. And in a world of attention spans that last as long as the average marriage, I've had to answer as concisely as possible. The shortest answer is love. A slightly more elaborate answer is that I am a follower of Christ. As such, I have become a servant to all. In the Marine Corps, I can serve the entire country, and as an officer I can serve Marines, too.

I've also been asked, "why fight and possibly die for a corrupt and sinful country?" To which I reply, "Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Life requires levity. Merry Christmas! (Kevin Boyle inspired this post)