Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mere Christianity

My son Tim and I are nearly finished with a chapter-by-chapter book study of this Lewis classic, and I'm reminded once again why it's a classic. His manner is modest and unassuming. He never leverages his mastery of the language in order to remind you of his own brilliance, but uses it to make complex ideas about God, philosophy and apologetics simple, accessible and clear.

His friendly style doesn't prevent him from cutting to the heart of, for example, "contemporary" Theology. The double irony of the following comment on the importance of studying Theology and on Theological "novelties" (from his intro to Beyond Personality, the final section of the book) is that it was written in 1943.
In other words, Theology is practical; especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.
The new approaches of 18th and 19th century skepticism (on the authority of the Bible and the meaning of the Cross) had only recently been embraced as new thoughts by mainline denominations when Lewis wrote this. Sadly, they are being "trotted out" as novelties again in 2007 by New Evangelicals, Post-Evangelicals and others.

These and other equally muddled notions are easily absorbed by groups and individuals who don't place a high value on Theology (or history, for that matter) generally and learn only from each other and their own experiences.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Noisome Histrionics
It's high time I posted something on this blog. With all the business and fun of the Christmas season upon us, my head is spinning like a dreidel, and there's little time for poignant posting. It seems a little impolitic in this benevolent period to comment on the noisome histrionics emanating in ever more irritating tone from some corners of the presidential race. So until the new year comes (or some irresistible turpitude erupts in political news) I will try to exude all-round good cheer in this space.

Yesterday was the traditional family shopping day, and this year it was an absolute joy from beginning to end, owing in part to his grandmother's and my assignment to push the little grandson's stroller for part of the afternoon. I'll take that duty most any time. (If I can figure out how to post a picture from my cell-phone, I will.) All the kids joined us (even the grown-up ones) and we had a ball.

The day rounded out with Beth's Christmas piano recital (she did great) and cocoa at Starbucks.

On a completely different note, favorite word of the week? Turpitude. Goes well with nugatory. Nugatory turpitude.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Peggy Noonan on a Couple of Topics

This is a pretty good one from a recent WSJ.

On the politics of abortion and the media:

I will never forget that breathtaking moment when, in the CNN/YouTube debate earlier this fall, the woman from Ohio held up a picture and said, "Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr. Edwards, this is a human fetus. Given a few more months, it will be a baby you could hold in your arms. You all say you're 'for the children.' I would ask you to look America in the eye and tell us how you can support laws to end this life. Thank you."

They were momentarily nonplussed, then awkwardly struggled to answer, to regain lost high ground. One of them, John Edwards I think, finally criticizing the woman for being "manipulative," using "hot images" and indulging in "the politics of personal destruction." The woman then stood in the audience for her follow up. "I beg your pardon, but the literal politics of personal destruction--of destroying a person--is what you stand for."

Oh, I wish I weren't about to say, "Wait, that didn't happen." For of course it did not. Who of our media masters would allow a question so piercing on such a painful and politically incorrect subject? [read all of it]

On the politics of Hillary Clinton with Obama in her rear view mirror (Warning:objects may be closer than they appear...) and how she must be feeling:

...And anger at this nobody who wasn't even in the Senate when you took the big votes, this cream puff who was a functionary in Chicago when you were getting your head beaten in by Ken Starr. What does Mrs. Clinton do when she's feeling angry? What has she done in the past? Goodness, this won't be pretty.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Nugatory Discomfiture

You guessed it, it's time for this week's vocabulary adventure. It's never been my intention to discomfit my readers on this page. Nobody wants to toil and moil over a blog post, just read and enjoy. That's why here in my virtual hibernaculum, the decision was made to link each new and challenging word from my Word-a-day calendar to its definition at

In unrelated domestic news, this is the week of the annual major appliance or plumbing fixture breakdown at the Dugan manse. We lose at least one each year during the Christmas holiday. This time it's the overpriced built-in microwave that is kaput. An over-priced replacement unit is on order.

Couldn't think of a kind way to use the word "porcine," though in the political season, all sorts of unkind usage comes easily. I'll take suggestions...

My favorite new word? Nugatory, hands down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ex Cathedra Persiflage

A quick check on my StatCounter the other day showed a grand total of 0 (zero) readers that day, raising the philosophical question: If a blogger posts in the forest, and there is nobody there to read it, does it make a sound?

Some would say that perhaps a new post more often than every 12 days might generate a little more interest, and while I would tend to agree, I also think interesting content might be helpful. But there, of course, is the rub. I've tried multi-page ramblings on church history and ecclesiology, exhortations and pontifications religious and political, some attempts at humor, and pictures of my grandson Will.

So far, the best content idea has probably been the baby picture, but that last string of long words leads to another idea, a new feature sure to overload my StatCounter within days—once the buzz begins throughout the blogosphere: The Word-a-Day Vocabulary Practice post. I have on my desk the Workman Publishing daily tear-off calendar that features a new, often obscure, English word, its definition and a usually entertaining bit of background and instruction about proper usage. The only way to truly add to one's vocabulary is to deliberately use a new word in daily conversation, so about once a week (if I feel like it) I will be posting something that includes that week's Word-a-Day offerings. Here's a start. See if you can pick out this week's words, then as needed, head for

When you think about it, most blog posts are little more than a pleasant causerie, carried on between friends and relatives. Occasionally they degenerate into a kind of mindless persiflage, but most jaded readers prefer even that to the sentimental treacle common to many of the posts we read. Not to be too stringent in what I demand of fellow bloggers and others, I'm truly suspicious only of those who in their own fevered imaginations claim to speak ex cathedra.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Extended Adolescence of the Evangelical Mindset
Came across this entertaining post, "To Baldly Go" by Carl Trueman at Reformation 21. He has some funny stuff about the phenomenon of hair loss and cover-up and then gets a little more pointed on youth-culture obsession among the middle-aged:
...what is it with ministers and Christian leaders who seem to feel a compulsive need to talk about youth culture all the time and to adopt the styles of self-obsessed teenagers in order to demonstrate how `relevant’ their ministries are and how hidebound everybody else’s are? Above all, the arrival among the forty-somethings of the soul patch, that absurdly redundant tuft of hair just below the bottom lip, says it all. That middle-aged ministers think that they are somehow culturally more attuned or useful because they lecture their peers about what kids do or do not believe, and because they adopt the aesthetics and style of the modern metrosexual is a bizarre and sad turn of events.
His observations:
First, in the world of today, as of yesterday, kids find old people (i.e., anyone over twenty-five) to be embarrassing and implausible...
Second, the Bible itself does not seem to put much stock in what the kids think.
Third, the gospel just is not cool.
And finally,
But the point of priorities is basic and important: don’t let your mid-life crisis determine the way you think about the gospel and the church. A hairstyle which tries to hide the ageing process is one thing, ridiculous but harmless; a theological agenda which mimics the world’s obsession with locating wisdom in the very sector of society with least experience of, and perspective on, everything is far more serious and potentially damaging.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Run for Your Lives, the Baby Boomers Are Coming
P.J. O'Rourke nails it in the Weekly Standard. On the heels of the Greatest Generation the spectre of the Least Generation hitting retirement ought to strike fear in the body politic. We are the biggest bunch of silvery-templed whiners in history. We're so-o-o needy, and we're about to elect another one of our own to the highest office in the land! Hilarious but frightening piece.
So just give us all the money in the federal, state, and local budget. Forget spending on the military, education, and infrastructure. What with Iraq, falling SAT scores, and that bridge collapse in Minneapolis, it's not like the military, education, and infrastructure are doing very well anyway. Besides, you don't have a choice. We are 80 million strong. That's a number equal to almost two-thirds of the registered voters in the United States. Do what we say or we will ballot you into a socio-economic condition that will make North Korea look like the clubhouse at Pebble Beach. And that's the good news....
The Media and Objectivity
Pat Shortridge at Truth vs. The Machine identifies a revealing trend over at the hapless Minneapolis Star and Tribune. As our own little gray lady continues to take on water, it seems that a steady stream of "journalists" have been observed scampering down her frayed hawsers and into the employ of local liberal (gasp!) politicians. Money quote:
Now, again, I believe in free markets. I begrudge no one a better job making more money doing what they love. But it comes back to the hypocrisy and intellectual honesty. If you want to play on the liberal team, grab a jersey and get in the game. Just don’t pretend that you’re a fair minded, impartial adjudicator wearing a striped shirt.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Will Benjamin
I swiped this photo from his blog. He'll not be too happy with this in a few years, but I think it's priceless.

Monday, October 22, 2007

What Do True Values Voters Care About?
Here's an interesting take from the Evangelical Outpost blog, at the just-completed FRC Washington Briefing. Is the timidity of conservatives (not just conservative bloggers) in emphasizing our opposition to abortion in political argument once again attributable to a mis-guided electoral pragmatism? Terror of the dreaded "single-issue" appellation used so successfully to make us feel marginalized in the past? EO says:
The most significant insight I gained from The Washington Briefing was not about the candidates but about the bloggers: Right-leaning bloggers are out of touch with a large portion--if not the majority--of conservatives in America.
Again, not to be too hard on bloggers or other fiscally conservative commentators here. More power to all who labor tirelessly to identify and dispel the clouds of big-government, utopian, collectivist, socialist, anti-free-market, neo-Marxist gas emitted from the left. Shout it from the blog spots and the house-tops, but learn also from EO's astute observation:
The second most significant insight (though I had been ruminating on this for a few months) is that the semantic distinction between "social conservatives" and "fiscal conservatives" presents a false dichotomy. Conservatism is rooted in principles (transcendent moral order, social continuity, prudence, etc) that naturally have implications for economics. If you are a conservative you are conservative about matters of society and thus likely to espouse economic policies that are fiscally conservative as well. But conservatism cannot begin with economic or fiscal issues as the primary concerns, much less push social issues to the periphery. Anyone who thinks tax reduction is essential while abortion and marriage are secondary or unimportant cannot rightly be considered to be "conservative", at least not by the standards of the American conservative tradition. Currently we don’t have a label for people whose primary philosophical concern is their pocketbooks. It is becoming increasingly apparent, though, that we can simply call them "Republicans."
Let's not fear being true conservatives, fiscally and socially, ideologically or politically. It's a winner, and trumpeting an uncertain sound rallies nobody to the battlefront.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Giuliani vs. Clinton and Being Pro-Life

Justin Taylor's blog Between Two Worlds addresses the dilemma many of us face in this post from a week ago.

As a pro-life Christian 1) does my vote for a GOP candidate who doesn't get it encourage the party to abandon its principles and thereby lose any voice in the protection of babies, and 2) does a non-vote or a third-party vote ensure the election of a Clinton who will eagerly perpetuate the culture of death? Probably both. And such is the dilemma if Rudy is the only "electable" candidate on his side. Taylor writes:
It is a valid, legitimate point that if the Republicans nominate a pro-choice candidate, then this precedence[sic] opens the door for the nomination of pro-choice Republican candidates in the future.
One must recognize that if it comes down to Giuliani vs. Clinton, a vote for a third-party candidate will undoubtedly guarantee a Clinton presidency (likely for the next eight years). Read that sentence again. Now read it one more time. I think it's incontrovertible, and I'm not sure some pro-lifers have sufficiently recognized this.
And this summary...
At the end of the day, perhaps we can categorize the two positions as (1) principled pro-life purity and (2) principled pro-life pragmatism.
I suppose we have a few months to pray/work for better GOP candidate, and a year to ponder what to do if we don't get one.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Attempting to Organize This Blog
Either now or later, depending on how soon I figure this out, old and new posts will be labeled and listed somewhere on this page. So far, the categories are:
Amnesia Helmet Awards
C.S. Lewis
Politics and Religion
The Church
We'll see if I can get them to show up.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Demas and Bonocus
The Sacred Sandwich offers this to the subject of cultural relevance.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Re-visiting Mars Hill and Relevance

Acts 17 has long been appealed to as a pattern for the way in which Christians ought to engage unbelieving culture—Paul's appeal to "your own poets" and reference to their monument to the "unknown God" particularly.

Russell D. Moore's Retaking Mars Hill in September's Touchstone addresses what really happened that day in Athens (it's high time somebody did) and challenges much of the evangelical and emergent silliness perpetrated in the name of reaching the world. We are, it seems, either aping pop culture to be more attractive or embracing pop culture to be more authentic. The Apostle, on closer examination, attempted and cared for neither. Just one of many insights here:

Often at the root of so much Christian “engagement” with pop culture lies an embarrassment about the oddity of the gospel. Even Christians feel that other people won’t resonate with this strange biblical world of talking snakes, parting seas, floating axe-heads, virgin conceptions, and emptied graves. It is easier to meet them “where they’re at,” by putting in a Gospel According to Andy Griffith DVD (for the less hip among us) or by growing a soul-patch and quoting Coldplay at the fair-trade coffeehouse (for the more hip among us).

Knowing Andy Griffith episodes or Coldplay lyrics might be important avenues for talking about kingdom matters, but let’s not kid ourselves. We connect with sinners in the same way Christians always have: by telling an awfully freakish-sounding story about a man who was dead, and isn’t anymore, but whom we’ll all meet face-to-face in judgment.

His observations of contemporary Christian music are especially painful—and accurate.

And I've only just gotten started on my soul-patch.

Monday, October 01, 2007

An Evening With G.K. Chesterton

Meaning to do so for a long time, finally last week I showed up for a monthly meeting of the Twin Cities Chesterton Society. 30+ devotees of the the great English curmudgeon's good sense come to the University Club on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, prepared to discuss one or more of GKC's books or essays. This time it was Fads and Fancies, a book of essays on everything from Hamlet to the role of mothers in education. I decided to go on the spur of the moment, had not read the material, so sat in the corner and mostly listened and learned. These, by the way, are some really smart guys and will be added to my links. Great fun.

Lot's of Chesterton's work is available on line. Check out Fancies Versus Fads, corresponding to the book mentioned above, particularly the article Turning Inside Out (1923) for a taste of his prescience and common-sense brilliance.

The society's meetings are open to anyone and chaired by the founder of the American Chesterton Society based right here in the Southern burbs. I'll be back for more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This is grandson Will at just 10 days old. He gave us these looks for several minutes. The overwhelming consensus in the room was "smiling." Other explanations are hereby ruled out of order.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Speaking of Babies...

This is a heads-up about one (of many, I'm sure) organization doing something truly unique and valuable for the kids of Africa, in the name of Christ, The Rafiki Foundation.

In their own words:
The Rafiki Foundation is a Christian organization whose goal is to help Africa’s orphaned and vulnerable children become godly contributors to their communities and the world. It was established in 1985 by Rosemary Jensen and others who desired to help the children of Africa. Rafiki’s plan for Africa has the potential of impacting thousands of children through the establishment of Rafiki Training Villages and Rafiki Satellite Villages.
A little research brought me in contact with very helpful, credible people there, and they come on excellent recommendation.

Friday, September 21, 2007

These Are The Days

My new favorite old song [listen] from my new favorite old artist, Van Morrison.

These are the days of the endless summer
These are the days, the time is now
There is no past, there’s only future
There’s only here, there’s only now

Oh your smiling face, your gracious presence
The fires of spring are kindling bright
Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory
Crying freedom in the night

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one magician
Turned the water into wine

These are days of the endless dancing and the
Long walks on the summer night
These are the days of the true romancing
When I’m holding you oh, so tight

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one great magician
Turned water into wine

These are the days now that we must savour
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
You’ve got to hold them in your heart.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Welcome N0. 1 Grandson Will!

This is Baby Weekend in our world! At 1:57 p.m. Friday, September 14, Will Benjamin—6 lbs. 13 oz.—made his entrance. He's perfect, beautiful, an absolute joy. Thank you Nikki and Mark, thank you Lord Jesus for the gift of life! Now you have to look at some pictures...

The world's most beautiful baby, just a couple of hours old...

...with the world's most beautiful Grandmother...

...and the shamelessly proud, curmudgeonly Grandpa...

...the glorious new family...

...the thief of all our hearts, Will Benjamin Wallace.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Counter-Culturally Relevant

The C.S. Lewis Institute publishes a newsletter/magazine called Knowing and Doing...quarterly, perhaps? Not sure. The current issue features a short but excellent biography of William Wilberforce. You can download the pdf here.

Wilberforce seems to have been able to balance "knowing and doing," the subjective and objective, a substantial evangelical faith within himself and the application of deep convictions to issues in the public square. His witness was powerfully relevant to his culture but never lost it's footing. He suffered the scorn and contempt of popular culture, but doggedly continued his cause against the slave trade (and against the decline of public morals) all of his adult life. So much of what current evangelicalism tells us we need to do in order to be relevant seems to be little more than concession and accommodation to popular culture, not confrontation of it. We want to be liked, and when we're liked—we're relevant.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Irrelevance of Relevance

Over the weekend I picked up and read a short book by Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. His premise: that the Evangelical church in America is well on it's way to utter irrelevancy—pretty much due to its relentless and misguided pursuit of relevancy!

It was, by the way, the same old saw (that unless we become more culturally relevant, the church's next generation will be lost) motivating the earliest liberalization and decline of mainline denominational witness in the 1800's, the early 1900's and again in the 1960's, weakening them near unto death. Evangelicals (of whom he is one) says Guinness, are following the same path to the same end.

Anyway, this recent Touchstone article on relevance in preaching offers incisive corroboration. One of several money quotes:
Well, I thought, what word is the right and relevant word depends on what you think relevant. We have no reason to think that what feels relevant to the worldling is actually relevant to his life. We do have reason to believe that what he feels relevant will be that which diverts him from the painful contemplation of his own sins and helps him move along the trajectory he has plotted for himself—to improve, as he understands it, but not to change.
More later.
The Way it Should Be

Once in a while we're offered a ray of hope. Hope that real goodness still exists and something of the American spirit survives in the wake of post-modern societal decay.

Such was the impact of the scene my wife and I came upon the other day during the monsoon rains of August. A sharp depression in the nearby school yard has been created to provide drainage for the adjacent athletic field, and this day it was overwhelmed, filled with a foot and a half of water, forming a wonderful impromptu pond. Circled around it were a handful of drenched 12-year-old boys on bikes. As we passed one of them took his turn riding straight into the middle of it, the look on his face of pure imbecilic joy beaming through the spray.

I felt the pang of vicarious joy and a little envy. That's what boys ought to be doing on a rainy day. Life is still pretty good in America.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Random Thoughts

1. What happened to Summer? Whenever the sounds of High School marching band nearby begin to float through our yard, we know it's coming to an end. The only comfort is the good feeling I still get when I remember I don't have to go back to school in September!

2. Scout camp is a good thing. My son and I did our week at Many Point Scout Camp in N. Minnesota early this month. A good time had by all.

3. Something else I've learned from DirectTV...the rooftop dish: When storms come through and you need critical weather information from channel X, Y or Z, your dish-connected TV offers this helpful message on an otherwise blank blue screen, "Searching for Satellite Signal." So up go the rabbit ears on the little emergency TV.

4. Some books worth reading include: When I Don't Desire God by John Piper, not the best title (it seems from the title that it might just be a quick spin-off) for an excellent book—a deep, thoughtful treatment of the pursuit of joy in God; The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis is an every-few-years-re-read; The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden is full of cool information and how-to's and stuff to make—the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, how to skin a rabbit, etc.

5. Van Morrison is cool. The iPod and iTunes have been my ticket to rediscovering old artists that I like more now than I did then.

6. Soon I will be a Grand-dad. Counting down to mid/late September for the birth of the boy-king!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Join the Emergent Conversation

Begin by learning the language. Here's a helpful glossary to get you started. Some of my favorites:
  • Absolutes - A concept we must absolutely avoid.
  • Atonement - Theory of divine child abuse that appeals to vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood
  • Authentic - Being one’s real, sinful, doubting self (and proud of it).
  • Bible - A book through which subjective enlightenment comes to us as we live in community.
  • Conversation - Equally confused people guessing what things might be “true” and guessing what “true” might mean.
  • Criticism - 1. Something to which we must be radically open when given by non-Christians. 2. Something to which we must be absolutely closed when given by conservative Christians. 3. Something conservative Christians should accept from us.
These are just a few of the a-b-c's, so grab your half-caf, extra-hot grande (I thought I said "extra hot"... OK?...just bring it to the table) and pull up a chair. Today's topic: authentic missional communities and the urban poor...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Something Other Than a Baby Boomer's Bright Idea

From Frederica Matthews-Green who has carefully documented her path into Eastern Orthodoxy, answering why so many in this generation are attracted to it:
Orthodoxy itself is appealing, I think, initially because it is visibly beautiful, and because it is rooted in something other than a Baby Boomer’s bright idea.
Hear, hear, evangelical and emergent innovators. I might add "or a GenX/Yer's bright idea" , but it's a pretty good working description of the shifting sands beneath American evangelicalism, isn't it? Maybe it's high time for something old.

And a bonus unrelated thought from the great non-baby-boomer curmudgeon/philosopher/theologian/poet Gilbert Keith Chesterton on seeing and appreciating God's world:
[Children] always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy: for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
—From Orthodoxy

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Learning from Luther
I came across this quote from the good doctor regarding the way in which conflict and suffering contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the Bible:
For as soon as God's Word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real doctor [teacher of doctrine] of you, and will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God's Word. For I myself...owe my papists [Roman Catholic adversaries] many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil's raging, that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached.
While I have no hope of becoming a doctor or even a good theologian, I can enthusiastically echo the sentiment. Looking back on a fairly intense struggle with aberrant teaching and practice in a group I found myself in a few years ago, I can now see a corollary benefit to that misery—a greater seeking and love (even desperation) for God's Word. It certainly improved my library, including the three volume edition of What Luther Says, where the above quotation can be found. (3:1360, Concordia, 1959).

Monday, July 09, 2007

My Favorite Live Earth Moment

"Turn the the thermostat down one degree."


The popular artist offered this when asked for one simple step all of us can take to help the cause and avert environmental destruction. It was in the 90's and humid over most of the country on Saturday, so Mrs. D dutifully walked down the hall and changed our AC setting from 75 to 74. Much better, thank you. Save the planet.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Amnesia Helmet Goes to Hillary (again)

I have a feeling that over the next few months they're going to need more mantle space at the Chappaqua manse. These folks have so much to forget.

Today's award-winning statement regarding the Libby matter:

"This commutation sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice." - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trabant Health Care

In a 2007 comparison of socialism and capitalism we enjoy a luxury not available in the earliest days as the contest between these two systems began. We have the perspective of history, and the evidence is in. The icons and detritus of 70-plus years of European experimentation tell the tragi-comic story of centralized economic control, over against the legacy of capitalism and competition.

Despite all its excesses and unfulfilled promises, economic freedom always tends toward greater political freedom and a better quality of life—and better quality stuff—for all. Sadly, the evidence of history is opaque to many on the Hillary Rodham/Obama left. They seem determined and doomed to repeat the worst of it.

Here's a snapshot of the difference. Forget macro-economic theory for a moment and picture instead two iconic German automobiles, side by side, one representing the socialist East and one the democratic West, both created and built by Germans, shown here in their c. 1990 end-of-cold-war editions. The Mercedes, of course, is legendary for quality, performance, luxury and engineering innovation all the world over. Stats are readily available, say no more.

Consider the less widely known East German Trabant.
• under-powered 2 cylinder, 2 cycle engine
• noisy, smelly, polluting
• 0-60 in 21 seconds
• notoriously unreliable brakes
• essentially unchanged over 30 years of production
• in demand, but about all that was available to East Germans outside the Party elite
• acquired by application to be put on a waiting list
• engineered and produced by state-owned monopoly (single-payer manufacturing?)
• competitor of the Yugo

Question: What could possibly cause one group of Germans (as a nation among the most brilliant engineers and industrialists in modern history) to produce something so pathetic while their Western brethren gave us Mercedes, VW, BMW and Audi?

You know the answer. Then think about what'll happen when government monopolizes health care; when the clattering, sputtering, smoke-spewing specially modified Trabant ambulance pulls up to your door...a week late.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Old Dog Learns New Trick

My lovely bride presented me with one of these as an anniversary gift earlier in the week, and I'm having fun! It's the 8 gig model and I'm told it will hold my entire CD collection. I'm rediscovering some gems as I load them up in iTunes. It also works great for my growing collection of sermons old and new. This is cool.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fun With Pronounce-iation In the Midwest

I think it was the great Diana Ross guest-judging on American Idol (whose performance on that show would not have gotten her past round one were she not the great Diana Ross) who admonished the young contenders that in the delivery of a song it is utterly crucial to "pronounce-iate." Apparently nobody told Michael McDonald that back in the '80s.

What I'm offering here is a beginning list of common, locally observed eccentricities and oddities in our use of the language. Lest anybody think I'm on too high a horse, let me assure you I'm a Minnesohtan and I talk like one. I've had a Californian ask me if I was a Canadian (ouch!) and a Floridian inquire about my farming business—after only a brief introduction and minimal conversation. Also, any hypocrisy will be immediately and mercilessly pointed out by those who know me and read this.

So here they are, grouped in beginning categories for your enjoyment and emendation.
(Readers' additions in blue)

Too Many Syllables for Us
probably = probbly
comfortable = kumpfterbull
incidentally = incidently
didn't = dint
shouldn't = shunt

We Want More Syllables
nuclear = nuculer (Jimmy Carter, though not a Midwesterner,
loved to remind us that he was a "nuculuh" physicist)
athletic = athaletic
realty = reelahty and then, of course...
realtor = reelahter
pastoral = pastorial
oriented = orientated
regardless = irregardless

Vowel Trouble
milk = melk
since = sense
pillow = pellow
The short "i" sound bedevils us even to the point of confusion about definitions—for example, insure and ensure are the same word...we're pretty sure).
get = git (The Bumbling Genius notes this as a Southern phenom, but it's ours too.)

Diphthong Difficulties
about = a boat (owing perhaps to a subconscious preoccupation with lakes and fish)
about = a boot (the closer you get to the Canadian border and really nice lakes and fish)
jaguar = jagwire (for the English it's three syllables: jag-you-war...we prefer jagwire)
counselor = cahnseler (our continuing difficulty with vowel combinations)
Incidently, many Minnesotans believe a diphthong to be an immodest swimsuit, inappropriate attire for camp cahnselers or anyone else.

Double (Consonant) Trouble
February = Febuary (that bru is just too hard to say, particularly outdoors in Febuary)
statistics = stastistics (just too dang many s's and t's to keep straight)
espresso = expresso
escape = exscape (thinking, I suppose, of the exit sign under which we make our exscape)
ornament = ordament (maybe we've just always got a head cold)
jewelry = julery

Confusion With Other More Familiar Words
tract = track (some in my son's former youth ministry insisted that the little pamphlets keep you "on track" and are therefore "tracks")
rapport = repore (falls somewhere between the the exotic French "rapport" and our word "report" with which we're more kumpfterbull, so we'll stick with repore)
pundit = pundant, as in "political pundant"
That last one is a little like "pendant", the piece of julery you wear on a chain around your neck. You could never wear a pundit on a chain around your neck—unless maybe Dick Morris or Robert Raiche.

Inexplicable Changes and Additions
NASA = always Nassau, as in Bahamas
et cetera = eck cetera
familiar = fermillyer
valentine = valentime (mostly a Mr. T foible)

Eck Cetera
Not pronunciation per se, but curious usage and habit.
"the thing is..." = "the thing is is..." (We're never quite sure how many verbs-to-be there ought to be in this phrase. One is is is enough.)
old fashioned = old fashion (even when used as an adjective)
loan = borrow "will you borrow me your pencil?"

To be continued. Feel free to add, correct and comment!

Monday, June 11, 2007

What I've Learned from Direct TV

The satellite dish was for us a new window on the world of television and I've learned a number of things since subscribing.

1. That the price per month is never actually as low as promised.

2. That most programming is banal and boring and now I have many more banal and boring options

3. That even without any pay channels or movie channels, television is becoming increasingly corrupt.

4. That some of the most dangerous and corrupt television is to be found on the "Christian" channels. In the name of the Gospel and in the precious name of Christ, every sort of snake oil salesman and peddler and prosperity-gospel polluter and buffoon can now be found on satellite TV, making a mockery of Christ and driving a wedge between the Gospel and those who desperately need to hear it. Christian television is in a sorry state indeed.

God in His providence has made available a variety of assets to the proclamation of His Gospel: Roman roads and the Greek language in the 1st century, improvements in transportation and the printed word throughout the centuries. What an unspeakable tragedy that the unprecedented technological opportunity of broadcasting has been so universally co-opted and squandered by the current scourge of television "evangelists." Believers everywhere need to pray fervently that almost all "Christian" programming as it now is would just simply disappear.

Here is a short but powerful reminder of what's at stake:

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Abolition of Man (Continues)

In my previous post and one earlier still, I have been attempting to digest C. S. Lewis's classic, The Abolition of Man. It strikes me thus far that my review of a Lewis chapter tends to get as long as the chapter being reviewed, speaking to that quality of verbal economy present in great writers and often missing in reviewers.

But there are questions worth asking again before going on to the last section of Abolition. What does Lewis, in addressing his generation, have to say to ours? What is the current value of his 60-plus-year-old analysis? What can he possibly offer us?

Maybe the answer is this: Lewis, in his age, was intellectually present at the birth of something important, something very much like the Spirit of Our Age. From a literary and a Christian perspective, he fought against the emptiness of modernism but even more importantly (for us), witnessed the unholy nativity of modernism's child—that which reaches its full stature of immaturity in what some call post-modernism. He predicted the age of self-definition, subjectivism, and relativism that now envelops us, and at the end with its abolition of transcendent values, the abolition of man himself. What he saw so clearly in its infancy now permeates nearly every one of our institutions and threatens to drain our culture of it's remaining moral capital. That's why this old book deserves a new reading.

We live in the adolescence of the values-altered world Lewis envisioned. A culture where unspeakable brutality and inhumanity are routinely justified for the "good of society," where the dominant ethic is that there are no dominant ethics, where rights are arbitrarily given and taken away. The consequences are manifest from Roe v. Wade to Virginia Tech.

But for Christians, there's more. The church, too, has been infected. As modernism eviscerated the witness of mainline American and English churches two generations ago, it is modernism's child that threatens the evangelical church today. Postmodernism has met with theology and produced the Emergent conversation. Subjectivism rules, dogma has disappeared, and what the Bible means can only be imagined in the mind (or heart) of each reader. There are no wrong interpretations.

To ask "Is there truth that applies to all people in all places?" is to ask the wrong question. Rigorous doctrinal debate has been replaced by a conversation that needs no conclusion and is even preferable without one. It's the journey, not the destination that matters, and the optimism we're supposed to feel rings with tragic absurdity; "I have no idea if we're on the right road, but we're making great time!?!"

That's a pretty hasty summary of the Emergent influence and while I'm not denying the legitimacy of some of what Emergent initially reacted against, the spiritual consequences are becoming evident as the post-modern subjectivism that now characterizes the movement sweeps across the evangelical church.

Chesterton said, "There really is only one dangerous thought—the thought that puts a stop to thinking"—the thought (expressed as a proposition!) that abolishes propositions. We are dangerously close to the stoppage of thought. Philosophical absurdity (there is nothing absolutely true...I'm absolutely sure, the only overarching value is that there are no overarching values) first drains man's rationality, then his ethics and finally the soul from his chest.

We should fear something similar in the evangelical church. We're well on our way to draining our ability to teach Christianity, to clearly define godly behavior and what it means to be a Christian. It is increasingly unacceptable to be either precise or dogmatic as to what Christianity includes or excludes—except in the case of doctrinal precision or theological dogmatism. These are always dogmatically and precisely excluded—in the tradition of Lewis's "moral innovators" who exercise prerogatives they deny others. It is unnecessary and humanly impossible to get theology right, and it is wrong to try.

The historic truths of Christianity, the meaning of the Cross itself, is open to individual interpretation as a "generous orthodoxy" becomes extravagant syncretism. How can it be otherwise?

Finally, we in the Church like the larger culture will inevitably face an authority crisis. A vacuum is created when the meanings of clearly written words are privatized, made subjective and blurred into meaninglessness. When the rule of absolute truth is abandoned, the absolute rule of men always takes its place as some sort of totalitarianism fills the void. Chapter 3 of Abolition imagines just such a scenario in society at large. Power will replace principle.

It makes me wonder, as scriptural authority effectively fades within the Church, whether we will soon see an even greater increase in cults of personality, charismatic salespeople offering syncretistic spiritualities and dynamic personal experience, only remotely tethered to biblical texts; or even a new rise of authoritarian cults, where the Word of God is effectively replaced by the "man of God," as desperate people search for something solid to anchor disintegrating lives.

So Lewis helps us here. He certainly makes me think, and he scares me a little.

More on the Abolition of Man

A few weeks ago in the wake of the hellish events at Virginia Tech I was drawn back to another old book, The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. It's tiny, only three chapters and an appendix.

The first chapter, Men Without Chests, identified a trend already present in the 1940's toward the privatization of values. Things are not "good" or "beautiful" in themselves, but only felt to be so as they stir corollary sentiments in the minds of individuals. This idea, as it finds its way through common education into the cultural mainstream, has consequences. If I get to define what is Valuable apart from any common standard, I also get to create my own set of ethics. Ethics are the standards of behavior based on some set of ultimate values. If life is universally and inherently valuable, then taking it arbitrarily is inherently unethical. If the value of life is personally determined, I might just assign it a lower importance in certain cases and then feel justified in taking it arbitrarily. Culturally speaking, personally defined values become no values at all.

The future of an essentially value-less culture, says Lewis, is ominous. That and more can be encountered in just the 1st chapter, but he goes on to develop his case, responding again to the authors of The Green Book, a literature study intended for the upper elementary grades. The last part of Lewis's argument (chapter 3, to be addressed later) will imagine in detail the contours of a future adrift from universal ethical moorings.

Chapter 2, The Way follows the trajectory of the Green Book authors' view from its apparent origins through its inconsistent and self-contradictory application. Lewis's provocative opening line:
The practical result of education in the spirit of The Green Book must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.
A great part of Lewis's brilliance, as his fans know, is his ability to bring high philosophical debate down into the language of people like us. In the second chapter he explores the origin of values and the modern trend away from what theologians and philosophers might call foundationalism, the assertion that there are such things as self-evident truths: irreducible, non-debateable assumptions necessary to the process of arriving at our viewpoints.

His concern is not so much the abstract foundations of reason, but what for convenience he calls the "Tao," that set of moral assumptions providing a basis for judgments of value and right behavior; values employed, though not admitted to, even by the moral innovators. Those who deny ultimate values of one kind always end up making their appeal on the basis of assumed values of another kind. It's the usual roundabout. Use what you deny in order to deny it; establish as a fundamental value that there are no fundamental values. Those who tell us there are no ultimate ought-to's are ever insisting that we ought to be as broadminded as they are.
However subjective they may be about some traditional value, [the authors] have shown by the very real act of writing The Green Book that there must be some other values about which they are not subjective at all.
And then:
Their skepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people's values; about the values current in their own set they are not nearly skeptical enough.
Next comes Lewis's analysis of what motivates the modern debunker of the Tao, that foundation of values common to civilized man:
They claim to be cutting away the parasitic growth of emotion, religious sanction, and inherited taboos, in order that 'real' or 'basic' values may emerge.
And from what ground might such real values emerge? Modernism's first answer has always been utilitarian, "good" is what is "good for the community." This of course only begs the question, for we still have to decide what good is for a community and who is obligated to participate in what action that might lead to it.

The second basis usually offered is "instinct." Pare away layers of imposed socialized belief and get down to a "natural" ethic. Man's impulse to preserve himself and his society is all that is needed. But this too is an inadequate and even disingenuous foundation. Inevitably it includes an "ought." We ought to reject certain instinctive impulses and embrace others, once again assuming some part of that higher set of values the debunker is trying so hard to pare away. And what to do when the desire for self-preservation comes into conflict with the obligation to preserve society? Instinctive impulses frequently contradict one another and must be judged according to their comparative dignity—a process not instinctual but again pointing to the Tao, to an external measure of what is worthy of man and what is not. (Lewis develops this further in his more popular Mere Christianity.)

Therefore, lying behind every natural explanation of the development of man's ethics is a more ultimate, assumed set of standards by which ethical propositions and "ethical development" itself must be evaluated. Lewis summarizes:
I draw the following conclusion. This thing I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or The First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the source of all value judgment. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained.
And then:
An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical Reason is idiocy. If a man's mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut. He can say nothing to the purpose. Outside the Tao there is no ground for criticizing the Tao or anything else.
What Lewis sees as universal elements of the Tao, those fundamental values common to and assumed by people everywhere, he includes in a wonderful appendix, a shorthand anthropological summary worth the price of the book.

Modern reasoning moves inexorably to a new and more precarious level. Maybe our task is this: even as modern science has swept away superstition and supernatural explanations for natural events, so too modern psychology will address outmoded assumptions about sexual morality (always the first on modern and post-modern lists to be jettisoned!) and other creaky, constrictive ideas about value and virtue. Most will demand modernization and even replacement. In fact—maybe we should just start over!
Let us regard all ideas of what we ought to do simply as an interesting psychological survival: let us step right out of all that and start doing what we like. Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.

This is a very possible position: and those who hold it cannot be accused of self-contradiction like the half-hearted skeptics who still hope to find 'real' values when they have debunked the traditional ones. This is the rejection of the concept of value altogether. I shall need another lecture to consider it.
And he does. Chapter 3, The Abolition of Man imagines the darkness sure to accompany that rejection, some of which is already evident.

To be continued.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Thank You, Mr. DUGG-an"

When you decide to change the name of sole-proprietor business to one that does not include both first and last name (John Doe Widgets to Doe Widgets Unlimited), there are more than a few legal and logistical hoops to jump through. One just cleared this morning was at the bank where, Secretary of State documentation in hand, I successfully made a business checking account name change.

My case was unusual and it took some extra time and phone consultation to determine just what needed to be done. It seems that my account had been opened some time before the bank officer was born and the details of it (and for all I know, I myself) appeared to her quaint, mysterious and as inscrutable as something from the Arthurian legend. The account had been opened in 1983, just after the battle of Agincourt. To her credit, she navigated through the process of updating the ancient records, periodically reminding us both of just how old and odd they were, with the help of a consultant at the other end of the phone line—while repeatedly mispronouncing my name. "Will Mr. DUGG-an remain as a signer where do I indicate DUGG-an Design Group on the form...yes, Mr. DUGG-an will continue to...." And so on.

Now I know that the name Dugan, even with the correct long vowel sound, isn't exactly musical as it rolls off the Irish tongue, and the problem for us is nothing new. But consider this: It was originally spelled with two g's and in a more grammatically rules-conscious age was ever and forgiveably being rendered "DUGG-an," short vowel before double consonant. My father, it is said, took offense and then took action excising the extra letter. In this age his work is to no avail. So at the bank and on the phone it continues. "Hello, this is Kevin at Acme are you this evening Mr. DUGG-an?..."

I think the long-vowel-before-single-hard-consonant rule still applies, doesn't it?

If not, I'll just say that my new business name is now LEGG-al, I've signed the forms in DUPP-licate as was my DUTT-y.

You're welcome Ms. JONN-es.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Amnesia Helmet Award Goes to 2nd Ex-Soviet

From the land of the gulag and the home of the pogrom, speaking from a dais positioned at the tomb of another Vladimir (Lenin, champion of human life), his voice echoing throughout that timeless symbol of human liberty, Red Square, comes this Putin speech likening American foreign policy to that of the Third Reich.
"Moreover, in our time, these threats are not diminishing," he said as he delved into what one expert said was clearly an allusion to U.S. foreign policy. "They are only transforming, changing their appearance. In these new threats - as during the time of the Third Reich - are the same contempt for human life and the same claims of exceptionality and diktat[sic.] in the world."
Congratulations, Vladimir! No need to dwell on the past, or remember that while the contemptible Reich was in its ascendancy, the Stalin/Soviet genocide machine (20 million?40 million??) was quietly and efficiently doing its work—as the Communist Chinese used to say, "depriving of existence" those who opposed them. Or that when Naziism was at last disposed of, it was Moscow orchestrating a network of the most repressive dictatorships in modern history, extending it's iron grip throughout Europe and beyond.

My complaint here is not the preposterous nature of the comparison, but the selective amnesia exercised and expected regarding modern European history. Let him level any criticism against U.S. involvement in continental affairs he wishes, but he should have at least said:
" during the time of the Third Reich and our own 70 years of brutal tyranny and jack-boot diplomacy..."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Tale of Two Fridges

I'm not sure what sort of musing this is or why it matters, but every week day I interact with at least two refrigerators and for some reason am reflective on the subject today.

There is the big one at home in the kitchen, and the little one in my office. They both do their jobs, the big Amana more or less as it keeps our beverages almost cold while faithfully freezing the lettuce. I am an American and a patriot but must point out that the Amana is (sadly) American/Union-made, that it required an A.R.M to purchase and that it insolently flings a decorative aluminum molding at my chest every time I slide a gallon of milk off the top shelf.

The little dorm-size Sanyo on the other hand performs with heroic consistency and has done so for (hold on to your chairs) 32 years of almost continuous operation (it was in storage for a very short time). It cost me about a hundred bucks, has humbly served in a dorm, a basement or two and now in my office for nearly 23 years. What a product.
The End Is Near

It's been fun, this Western Civilization thing, but the the signs are everywhere. Here's another.
"Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming.
Do you think you get more than three squares of recycled tissue (call the desk if you need more)?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

From First Things

Thanks to sharp eyes on the Bayly Blog, I was reminded of the good stuff to be found in First Things, now linked here. These excerpts come from a recent speech transcribed there, given by Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Denver.
But Americans now face the same growing spiritual illness that J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Christopher Dawson, Romano Guardini, and C.S. Lewis all wrote about in the last century. It’s a loss of hope and purpose that comes from the loss of an interior life and a living faith. It’s a loss that we can only make bearable by creating a culture of material comfort that feeds—and feeds off of—personal selfishness.

Humility is the beginning of sanity. We can’t love anyone else until we can see past ourselves. And man can’t even be man without God. The humility to recognize who we are as creatures, who God is as our Father, what God asks from each of us, and the reality of God’s love for other human persons as well as ourselves—this is the necessary foundation that religion brings to every discussion of free will, justice, and truth, and to every conversation about “the common good.”
And quoting from Frank Sheed:
It’s incredible how long science has succeeded in keeping men’s minds off their fundamental unhappiness and its own very limited power to remedy their fundamental unhappiness. One marvel follows another—electric light, phonograph, motor car, telephone, radio, airplane, television. It’s a curious list, and very pathetic. The soul of man is crying for hope of purpose or meaning; and the scientist says, “Here is a telephone” or “Look, television!”—exactly as one tries to distract a baby crying for its mother by offering it sugar-sticks and making funny faces.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Men Without Chests

In the wake of the Virginia carnage, theories and cultural analyses abound. For me it's time to revisit a C.S. Lewis classic The Abolition of Man, 1947 McMillan.

A handful of Christian writers demonstrate that remarkable prescience which makes their decades-old identification of trends more useful than most contemporary analysis. Among them are A.W. Tozer on the church, Francis Schaeffer on culture, and C.S. Lewis on both.

Abolition is a small book beginning with a chapter entititled Men Without Chests. His premise: that in modern culture, a shift was taking place in the education and moral development of children. Rejected as outmoded sentimentality, shared values (common understandings of what is good and beautiful) give way to a subjectivism that leaves all definitions and judgments in the mind of the beholder. While seeming to inoculate students against emotional manipulation by others, the product of this new humanism is inhumanity, a kind of soul-lessness, the abolition of man.

People become merely intellectual and visceral, imagination and appetite, with no "chest," no heart in between to mediate between the two and train the impulses of either. The result in culture is cognitive dissonance. We want (desperately need) people to be good, restrained and controlled in their behavior, understanding and tolerant in their views of others, respectful—in a word, civilized—and yet deny any common, binding definition of what it means to be civilized. In one of his better-known quotes:
And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible....We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
More later as I make my way through this one more time, but when shocking and horrific soul-lessness shows up again as it has in Virginia this week, this is one of the books worth re-reading.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

And the Award Goes to...

Mikhael Gorbachev. For the sincerity, strength and brilliance of this statement regarding the U.S. plan to develop a missile shield to protect Europe from imminent rogue state threats:

"It is all about influence and domination in Europe," Mikhail Gorbachev said. "I believe it is wrong that America did not even bother to consult its NATO allies."

The second Amnesia Helmet [see my 3/14/07 post] is hereby awarded to the former Soviet President who seems to have forgotten that NATO was in fact created to resist the influence and domination of Russia in Europe—and further that untold American time, effort and treasure were and continue to be poured into Europe in order to protect it first from his nation and now from others with similar designs. And of course we all know how much influence we enjoy in Europe today.

Whether all European members were adequately consulted, I don't know. I just find it amusing when deep concerns about the finer points of henhouse security come from a representative of the fox.

He will add this prestigious award to his 1990 Nobel Peace Prize, the Orders of Lenin, and the Red Banner of Labour. You can read all about him at, a site which like all grand socialist experiments promises much but doesn't actually work (at least in my browser).

Monday, April 09, 2007

An Inconvenient View of Global Warming

This piece in Newsweek by an MIT climatologist introduces a note of sanity to the discussion in the mainstream media. Money quote:
The current alarm rests on the false assumption not only that we live in a perfect world, temperaturewise, but also that our warming forecasts for the year 2040 are somehow more reliable than the weatherman's forecast for next week.

Monday, April 02, 2007

C.S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia

At long last my daughters and I sat down with this 75 minute documentary feature included with the Chronicles of Narnia DVD. What a delight! It's the story of Lewis's life interwoven with themes and excerpts from all the Narnia books and punctuated with commentary from all sorts of people—literary names to former Oxford students to Douglas Gresham, Lewis's step-son. The visuals include clever animations of the Pauline Baynes original illustrations.

His conversion to Christianity is clearly presented, and much of the "first-person" narration seems to come from his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Included were a couple of my favorite quotes from that book:
[on Atheism]
I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.
[on Atheism and books]
A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere—"Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
[on his conversion]
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not see then what is now the most shining and obvious thing: the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms.
Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Religion and its Prophet

Here is an interesting perspective offered by the Czech president on the religion of global warming (divine services being held today in the Capitol hearing rooms).

On Pork and Spinach

CAGW (Citizens Against Government Waste) has long been identifying the biggest pork-barrel spenders in Washington and has announced it's Porker of the Month.

"It's easy to make fun of spinach, but if we had eaten more of it, we'd be a stronger society," mused this month's honoree Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) as he added $25,000,000.00 for spinach growers in his district to the U.S. Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act of 2007.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Amnesia Helmet Award

This blog will hereafter occasionally bestow the Amnesia Helmet award to worthy nominees. It is a dubious honor just to be nominated, but only a select few will receive the coveted virtual Helmet for their virtual mantels.

A little history of the concept—explained in an Amazon review of the Buck Rogers 1939 serial: "...Buck Rogers is here to fight Kane's evil domination of mankind, which involves making obedient robots out of folks by strapping an "amnesia helmet" on their heads."

The criteria: The award will be given to those who, like the diabolical Kane, deliberately attempt to strap the helmet on our heads and thus manipulate us, or to those who in selective forgetfulness don it themselves.

My vast readership (members of the Amnesia Academy) is invited to submit nominees at any time. (I know my audience is growing because my profile hits increased from 571 to 585 within a month and only 13 of those new hits were me checking my profile hits.)

The first award goes to Hillary Rodham Clinton for her principled condemnation of the Bush administration firing of 9 U.S. attorneys. It seems that in 1993 the Clintons fired all 93 U.S. attorneys...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In Any Language

My dear friend and college room-mate Paul Sunde, with his wife Reiko has been living and working in Japan for many years. He now has a website with a few pictures, a lot of Japanese and a little English, introducing his church. I'm struck by the simplicity, profundity and universality of this line in his message:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

These are the first words of the Bible. Believing just this one sentence will change your life.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More Smart Guys

The criteria for inclusion in my list of "smart guys" at right are quite uncomplicated.

A candidate must:
1. Agree with me on some important issue.
2. Say it better than I can.
3. On positions that I don't agree with, articulate his or her position (females can be smart guys) clearly.
4. Amuse or intrigue me.
5. Demonstrate the capability of maintaining proper agreement of subject and verb even in difficult cases like "criteria...are quite uncomplicated."

A candidate is disqualified if:
1. He or she embarrasses me by saying something really stupid more than once. Just like eighth grade Phys. Ed. softball, two strikes you're out. We just don't have time for any more, and everybody gets a chance to bat.
2. The word "journey" is anywhere used outside it's clear literal meaning. "My faith journey" would disqualify, for example.
3. I don't like them any more.

I have added a new smart guy, and this post on NAE and global warming meets all the qualifications. Check it out...
The News is Out!

And I could not be more thrilled! And I expect all honor and deferential treatment due my new title and position. Thank You.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Ann Coulter's piece on the man whose candidacy has captivated and energized a broad range of Americans—all up and down the Malibu beachfront—is worth the time.

Favorite quote: "Obama made his announcement surrounded by hundreds of adoring Democratic voters. And those were just the reporters."

Monday, February 12, 2007

More Gems from J. Gresham Machen

On the weakened, more culturally attractive view of God and man offered by liberal theology then (1923) and it's current incarnation, the "emergent conversation" today—contrasted with the terrible and joyous purity of the Bible's teaching:

"Religion cannot be made joyful simply by looking on the bright side of God. For a one-sided God is not a real God, and it is the real God alone who can satisfy the longing of our soul...."

"...God's own Son delivered up for us all, freedom from the world, sought by philosophers of all the ages, offered now freely to every simple soul, things hidden from the wise and prudent revealed unto babes, the long striving over, the impossible accomplished, sin conquered by mysterious grace, communion at length with the holy God, our Father which art in heaven."

Surely this and this alone is joy. But it is a joy that is akin to fear. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Were we not safer with a God of our own devising—love and only love, a Father and nothing else, one before whom we could stand in our own merit without fear? He who will may be satisfied with such a God. But we, God help us—sinful as we are, we would see Jehovah. Despairing, hoping, trembling, half-doubting and half-believing, trusting all to Jesus, we venture into the presence of the very God. And in His presence we live."
—Christianity and Liberalism p.134-135

Go Machen!