9.30.2009

Dietrich and Judging Others

From Cost of Discipleship:
"Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. But in the love of Christ we know all about every conceivable sin and guilt; for we know how Jesus suffered, and how all men have been forgiven at the foot of the cross. Christian love sees the fellow-man under the cross and therefore sees with clarity. If when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil, we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts."

May we pray the prayer of the tax-collector and not the Pharisee - "Have mercy on me a sinner!"

9.29.2009

What is Wrong with the World?

What's Wrong with the World What's Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Again, never disappointed. He has been called "The Apostle of Common Sense" and "The Prince of Paradox" - and rightfully so. What may be maddening for some is that Chesterton does not give a straightforward argument from science or reason. His style is the argument from fairy tales. He draws on things that ring true and smell right.

In this book, he takes on the problems with liberalism and conservatism. Essentially, he argues the problem with both of them is that they lack an "ideal." Without an ideal there is nothing to progress towards, and neither is there anything to conserve.

In the scope of this book, Chesterton takes the ideal of the happy and healthy family, and demonstrates how the collectivism of the liberals and the oppression of the conservatives both work against and undermine the sustainability of the family. But if I continue to try and describe his argument, I will fail miserably because I will describe it with such inferiority that you will lose your motivation to actually read him.

I will only attempt to describe for what he is arguing. It is distributionism. Unlike socialists, he believes in property. He believes in each family working, possessing, and caring their own family and their own property. Unlike the so-called "Capitalists" - and I say so-called because he argues that they are actually the enemies of capitalism - he believes in the distribution of wealth (not state ownership but that each person would be given land and a house to own). He argues that there is no other way to make progress toward this ideal than to redistribute wealth because the poor families will not be able to attain to the ideal under the current inequalities of wealth.

The book is written in 1910 but is still very relevant for today. However, you quickly notice that he lives on the other side of such movements as woman's suffrage and politically correctness. So, you may find a few things uncomfortable, but you need to take him in his context.

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9.22.2009

Dostoyevsky and Human Depravity

In his Notes from Underground, Dostoyevsky directly challenges the enlightenment thinkers of his day (the late 19th Century). He does so through the testimony of the underground man, who has sought to live their ideology to its logical ends. To those who believed that man’s freedom and happiness was to be found in becoming an awakened or enlightened—or we might say educated—individual, he offers the underground man. This man’s new consciousness opened his eyes to his own wickedness. This man’s quest for personal enlightenment, made him isolated and inactive. He was awakened to a war within himself, and he was at war with everyone around him (precisely because he thought himself more intelligent and more conscious). He is miserable. He lives in a world of ideas unable to “live life” and unable to love. He is presented as enlightened individualism at its logical end.

Even today, enlightenment is presented as our answer. How many times have you heard education as the answer to the problems plaguing our world? The assumption is that when we become conscious of what is good for us, we will stop doing destructive things. The underground man offers the following rant:

“Oh, tell me, who first announced, who as the first to proclaim that man does dirty only because he doesn’t know his real interests; and that were he to be enlightened, were his eyes to be opened to his real, normal interests, man would immediately stop doing dirty, would immediately become good and noble, because, being enlightened and understanding his real profit, he would see his real profit precisely in the good, and it’s common knowledge that no man can act knowingly against his own profit, consequently, out of necessity, so to speak, he would start doing good? Oh, the babe! Oh, the pure, innocent child! And when was it, to begin with, in all these thousands of years, that man acted solely for his own profit? What is to be done with the millions of facts testifying to how people knowingly, that is, fully understanding their real profit, would put it in second place and throw themselves onto another path, a risk, a perchance, not compelled by anyone or anything, but precisely as if they simply did not want the designed path, and stubbornly, willfully pushed off onto another one, difficult, absurd, searching for it all but in the dark. So, then, this stubbornness and willfulness were really more agreeable to them than any profit…Profit!”

According to the introduction of this book, Fyodor wrote to his brother lamenting the fact that the editors of Epoch (the magazine in which it was originally published) had censured the parts where he deduced “the need for faith and Christ.” As it stands, the book is an effective defense of the first half of the Gospel—there is no one who is good, not one. The book begins with the words: “I am a sick man…I am a wicked man.” And like the tax-collector in the Temple, that is the place where we must begin as well. “Have mercy on me a sinner!”

9.11.2009

Two Words with Terribly Broad Definitions

In The Mark of the Christian, Francis Schaeffer urges true Christians to love all human beings, especially to love their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; and this love is the mark of the Christian (drawn from John 13:33-35). But in light of the failure on the part of so-called Christians to love one another, plus their wide divergence of beliefs, he remarks: "The meaning of the word Christian has been reduced to practically nothing." Schaeffer has in mind the question of whether the liberal theologian is really in the same camp as the Christian fundamentalist sitting in the pew. What is it to be a Christian?

Perhaps we can restore the meaning of this word by asking what it was in the first and second centuries to be a Christian.

A second word that suffers from a similar loss of meaning is the word evangelical. Grenz, Guretzki, and Nordling's Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms provides a concise definition: "In its most general sense evangelical means being characterized by a concern for the essential core of the Christian message, which proclaims the possibility of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. More specifically, evangelicalism has been used to refer to the transdenominational and international movement that emphasizes the need to experience personal conversion through belief in Christ and his work on the cross, and a commitment to the authority of Scripture as the infallible guide for Christian faith and practice." My question at this point is whether this leaves Joel Osteen out of the evangelical camp. I gather from the popular culture that Osteen is considered to be an evangelical; but the dictionary definition seems to rule him out. Is the popular definition of the word evangelical too broad, as is that of the word Christian? I tend to think it is. But what do you think? What comes to mind when you hear that someone is an evangelical?

(Note: The quotation from Schaeffer's The Mark of the Christian appears on p. 135 of his The Church at the End of the 20th Century, published by IVP, as the former book was originally an appendix of the latter book.)