Articles Archive for September 2011

[30 Sep 2011 | No Comment | ]

Reason is both a lovely helpmate and a whore. I have been exploring that idea quite a bit the last few months while writing this Skeptical Believer book. (Among other things, I’m looking for a more acceptable word than “whore,” which I am sure is considered offensive on many fronts these days. How about, “reason will serve any master”?)
The basic idea is that reason, while certainly a gift and a powerful tool, is so prone to manipulation by the other aspects of our being—hopes, desires, will, prejudice, fears, etc.—that to …

[26 Sep 2011 | 2 Comments | ]

Consistent readers of this still new blog (that would be me and a certain redhead), will have noticed how often I center a post on a quotation, most often from a book I am reading at the time. Occasionally, I have thought this unfortunate, a clear indication that most of my thinking is derivative, feeding off of others like a piglet at mealtime at the state fair. But then almost all human activities, even the most creative, are derivative in one way or another–and are better for it. Few people …

[22 Sep 2011 | 2 Comments | ]

Czeslaw Milosz, the Christian Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner, called the poet “the secretary of invisible things.” Unlike Romantic theories of creation, he said the poet did not create things so much as discover things. The poet is a prober of reality, not its maker. And many of the most important things cannot be seen or touched.
I think believers too should be secretaries of invisible things. Invisible does not mean non-existent, only non-tangible. And often resistant to logic narrowly defined and the scientific method. Saying so opens the door …

[19 Sep 2011 | No Comment | ]

In 1956, JRR Tolkien wrote in a letter, “I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a “long defeat”—though it contains . . . some samples or glimpses of final victory.” I find myself resonating with that view, though I am not entirely sure whether it is because of my temperament, my theology, or my experience of the world. Or maybe all three. I posted earlier about “Christian realism” and Niebuhr, and these are more thoughts in the same …

[15 Sep 2011 | 2 Comments | ]

This post is actually a commercial, brought to you by our sponsor (namely, me). I will be conducting a six week (one evening a week) workshop on creating a spiritual legacy for those in the Twin Cities area from Nov. 1 until December 6, 2011. Consider yourself invited if you live in the area. Details as follows:
The best way to discover and preserve the significance of your life is to tell your stories. It is also the best way to pass on a blessing to those you care about and …

[12 Sep 2011 | One Comment | ]

In the 18th century there was an ongoing debate referred to as “The Ancients-Moderns controversy,” in which one side argued that the present was clearly inferior to the past, especially in terms of art, virtue, and the state of civilization in general. The other side trumpeted the superiority of the present and future over the relatively ignorant past. That debate is still going on.
My instinct is to favor the “ancients” is this debate, but I am increasingly prone to say, with Theobald (Romeo and Juliet), “a plague on both your …

[9 Sep 2011 | 3 Comments | ]

Here is another snippet from the work-in-progress, The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist:
You don’t have to worry about hurting God’s feelings—at least not with your questions and doubts. God has heard it all. You have never had a fresh doubt or question. This is not to be dismissive of your questionings; it is intended as an encouragement to get them on the table. God knows your heart and mind anyway, so you may as well be open with him.
The best advice I have heard about what to …

[5 Sep 2011 | No Comment | ]

In his book on the gospel of Mark, The Genesis of Secrecy, Frank Kermode writes, “we find it hardest to think about what we have most completely taken for granted.” This causes me to ask myself, what do I most completely take for granted, which is a question about presuppositions. What do I take to be true without feeling any need to prove it, even to myself?
There are a lot of everyday practical things in this category (such as my presumption that the fellow driving toward me will stay on …

[1 Sep 2011 | No Comment | ]

Karl Bonhoeffer lost his eldest son in WWI. He lost two others—Dietrich and Klaus—in WWII, both for their participation in the plot to kill Hitler. He also lost the husbands of two daughters, plus many friends. Writing soon after hearing of the deaths of Dietrich and Klaus, he said of that loss, “We are sad, but also proud.”
Such a view can only come from a tragic sense of life. I use the word “tragic” in the high, literary sense that combines nobility with loss and failure, not in the popular …