Monday, April 16, 2007

My friend James Altena

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Novel Idea

Earlier this year my son gave me his old Ipod after he purchased a newer model. It sat in my desk drawer until my son asked me if I had begun to use it. When I confessed that it was difficult for this old dog to learn a new electronic trick, he reminded me that I could listen to books in MP3 format. That intrigued me and I soon signed up for an account. I have a daily work commute that averages an hour each way, so over the course of the last eight months or so, I've been able to listen to about eighteen books. At last a way to make my commute profitable!

Yet there is something odd about listening to a nineteenth-century British novel while commuting on the LA freeways. Or even a modern American novel. Here are some reviews I've posted recently on

First, Marilynne Robinson's glorious Gilead: "The Rev. John Ames is the Midwestern image of a good man. He reminds me of my own father, born on the edge of the Midwest 80+ years ago. I don’t regard myself as particularly sentimental, but I found tears near the surface very frequently while listening to this novel. This story is luminous in the sense that it illuminates, not the dark corners of the soul, but rather the little-observed or recognized areas of life. You’re a hard case if your wonder about the richness of the world and our humanity is not stretched by this tender book. I suspect I now know Pastor Ames much better than I do many of my flesh-and-blood friends."

How about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte? "Anne Bronte was the most pious of the three Bronte sisters. So it should come as no surprise that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the story of a Christian wife’s struggle for the conversion of her pagan husband. Helen Graham, the protagonist, is not without her own faults, particularly in her choice of a husband. The story is built around Helen’s penance, namely, her marriage, and her decision to rectify her mistake by means acceptable to God, if not pleasant for herself. It is the story of how Christian faithfulness brings hope out of evil and despair, and a testimony of how all things (eventually) work for the good for those who love God. If you love 19th-century British novels, this is clearly a book for you. Its strong religious and moral emphasis may not sit well in the 21st century, but if so—so much the worse for us. The vocabulary, the sensitivity, the sheer humanity of the characters serve to remind us of how far civilization has, in many respects, declined from greater heights."

Heard a good book lately?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Broken, Brackish Mountain

I have not seen the movie "Brokeback Mountain," nor do I intend to (even though I grew up in Wyoming). The preview was quite enough to tell me all I needed (but did not want) to know about it. I wish the movie ill, of course, but whether it does ill or well, the point of why the movie is truly offensive is likely to be missed.

How could anyone miss why a “gay cowboy” movie is offensive? Simple: by assuming that it is the “gayness” of the movie that is the root offense. “Gayness” or (and I will stick to this) homosexuality is merely one more sin heaped upon the dung heap that is Hollywood. It is not what Catholics might call a “venial sin,” but neither is it at the top of the list of trespasses either. It is but one sin among dozens pandered to by the entertainment elites. Ho, hum….

The real sin here is pride—and a particular type of pride that causes one to assert that he is far more moral than the Christian God described in Scripture. It is a sin that defines as virtuous that which Christians call sin. It does this insidiously by first justifying one’s trespass as excusable under the escape clause of a nuance, then attempts to move us toward sympathy for those “unjustly” condemned of the offense. Finally, we are pushed to acceptance and acclaim for that which, but a few years before, would have shamed us merely to mention. The sin in question is merely a means to a greater, more subtle violation that seeks to invert the moral order of the universe. Compared to this, pandering to homosexual impulses is mere peanuts.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Word as God

The Incarnation therefore binds us to santified time. And here, I suspect, is a key to understanding Scripture. Scripture is not only the Word of God, but also in some sense the Word AS God. By this I mean that Scripture is the Word understood as God in time. I don't mean to be mysterious. I mean that Scripture is the expression of God Incarnate, God in time.

We often expect the Bible to be an oracle, or at least to sound oracular. It rarely does. It so often sounds all too human. But this is what we should expect if the Bible is in fact the Word of God--Incarnate. God speaks to us, not from above, but from our side, from our fellow man, which He became. This view does not in the least deny the infallibility of the Scriptures, but rather forces us to see them from the viewpoint of the perfect, but nevertheless perfectly human. Being bound in time, they must sound normal to anyone of the era in which they were written, but all the same they must be perfect in all they proclaim. And in being human and perfect, they command our respect, our awe, as no merely oracular piece of writing possibly could.

De Incarnatio

Allow me a little medition on the heart of Christmas--the Incarnation. It is a commonplace analogy to liken the Incarnation to the act of an author writing himself into his own novel as a character. This analogy isn't bad, but it is far from the mark. The reason metaphors ultimately fail us here is that the Incarnation is itself the ultimate metaphor. The authorial metaphor fails for the simplest reason--the novel has no real life: it is purely imaginary. The Incarnation, on the other hand, is the ultimate reality. In comparison with it, our lives are nearly imaginary.

To begin to understand the Incarnation in any sense whatever we must consider the fact that God Himself took on a new life, a life that in itself was not immortal, but merely mortal. It was a life that could not be until the creation of time. Thus God not only shares our flesh, but our time. He bound Himself volutarily not only to the three dimensions of our corporality, but to the fourth dimension of our temporality. In fact it is questionable whether there can be corporality without temporality. But regardless of the answer to that question, God has chosen to live in time as we do, and by so doing, has sanctified the time in which we find our own lives lead.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


There have been more comments on my beloved Jack Lewis and Narnia lately than I can possibly keep up with, but I haven't seen any that accurately connect Lewis's work with that of Tolkien. We get the same tired story about how Tolkien despised Narnia, but Lewis (like an innocent puppy) always adored Middle-Earth. Perhaps. But they miss the point: Lewis and Tolkien both knew that the key to understanding fantasy was to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Lewis's heroes ARE children; they see the world as we saw it some years ago. Tolkien's heroes are near-children: the hobbits, who, though technically adults, are metaphorical children. Both Lewis and Tolkien understood the Lord's injunction: "Except you become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God." For children are far less sullied by the world than are we adults. They may not understand, but they do feel their proximity to God. This explains, I believe, their easy swings between great solemnity and giddy joy. These two states are produced naturally in one who has lately felt the presence of the Lord.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Where is that darn key to the blog?

Oh, there it is. Must have misplaced it.

In truth, it's been a busy personal time--catching up at work because of my upcoming vacation (out for the next two weeks), a little remodeling at home, both of my darlin' kids home for a little while, and WINNING my arguments with "Underground Logician" [; }] on his blogsite! As our Governator says, "Ah'll be bok!"

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sin boldly!

No doubt many of you think of me as a respectable guy. This should disabuse you of that notion!

Actually I gave my beautiful bride a surprise birthday party a couple of years ago, and I came as The King. You can see the effect I had on innocent bystanders! I try not to let it go to my head....