Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”
OK, how about some more limericks?
Limerick # 5
There once was a limerick writer
Whose income grew tighter and tighter.
“If I want to make bread
With my verses,” he said,
“I will just have to be even snider.”
There once was a student of grammar
Who was an incurable crammar.
He studied his best
On the eve of the test
By beating it in with a hammar.
A writer of verse from Hong Kong
Got all of his limericks wrong.
They started out fine
From the very first line,
But the last one was always invariably and without fail too long.
The colleges of education
Thought up many a grand innovation.
But when their reform
Became the norm,
Not a kid learned to read in the nation.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
Donald T. Williams, PhD
A poem by Donald Williams
Masefield longed to go down again to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all he asked was a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
But I would like a Treasure Map and a bonny, loyal Crew
Including Flynn the Librarian, Thor, and Doctor Who;
Our vessel the starship Enterprise with the Tardis built into her bridge,
And lots of Earl Grey in the Replicator and plenty of Pie in the fridge,
And dangerous Dragons to seek and slay, and Orc-Heads to cleave with zest,
And Villains sufficient to challenge us, but never derail the Quest.
The Evangelical Theological Society Meeting, San Diego, Nov. 2014
For the sake of fairness and historical accuracy, this was by no means the most discouraging academic conference I have ever been a part of. My paper and my panel were well attended and well received, and I was asked to join the steefing committee for a new C. S. Lewis Consultation, an encouraging development in the ETS whether I were a part of it or not. The sonnet here tries to capture one mood that the general experience of attending such conferences generates over time. The reality probably does not justify the level of cynicism expressed in the sextet any more than it does the romantic outlook expressed at the end of the octave. But for the record, I suspect others who have been sharers in the experience of doing academic conferences will recognize the mood and appreciate the fact that it is one we have to fight in order to keep going. We so much want our contribution to be the first thing, but it keeps threatening to turn into the other!
When I consider how my light is spent,
Not lost, like Milton’s–rather, cast away
Like pearls before–That’s not what I should say.
It is uncharitable, and I repent.
Yet here I’ve flown across the continent
For what? To give a paper? To convey
Thoughts like soldiers thrown into the fray
To conquer, plant their flag, and stake their tent
Defending all that’s holy, good, anhd true.
And even if the session’s well attended,
They’ll do with mine just what I do with theirs:
All good intentions notwithstanding, to
File it and forget it. Thus is ended
Another round of boxing with the air.
Donald T. Williams, PhD
For more poetry by Dr. Williams, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and orderStars Through the Clouds: the Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams. Se also his other new Lantern Hollow books there: Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters and Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy.
Brian Shelton, Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity. Anderson, IN: Francis Asbury Press, 2014. xi + 283 pp., n.p., pbk.
John Wesley famously cracked that Calvinism was “within a hair’s breadth of the truth.” One would not get any such impression from listening to either contemporary Calvinists or Arminians, who have been practicing polarization with great diligence ever since the passing of their respective masters. Toccoa Falls College VP for Academic Affairs Brian Shelton makes Wesley’s pronouncement plausible again with a much-needed study of Wesley’s doctrine of Prevenient Grace. Strangely neglected by contemporary Wesleyans, this doctrine is actually their strongest response to Calvinist critiques of their theology. Shelton treats it exegetically, historically, and theologically in a winsome book that deserves attention from people on both sides of the controversy. The book concludes with a very useful FAQ section called a “Synthesis of a Case for Prevenient Grace.”
Prevenient Grace is the proverbial hair’s breadth from the corresponding Calvinist doctrine of “Effectual Calling.” Both deal with the problem that in the Gospel faith and repentance are demanded of people who are incapable of rendering any such response, because they are dead in their trespasses and sins and the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit. It will be news to many Calvinists that there is an Arminian theology that takes this problem as seriously as they do and offers a similar solution: the enablement of the Holy Spirit is a necessary prerequisite to that response. The breadth of the hair lies here: Does the Spirit give that enablement to all men and women who hear the Gospel, or only to those who actually respond? Does He overcome all men’s sinful indisposition to the truth just enough so that they are able to make a free choice, or does He “call” those whom God foreknows so effectually that we can say that “whom He foreknew . . . He justified . . . and glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30)?
The exegetical section is the key. There are of course passages that can be taken as supporting either view (I’ve given one I think is on the Calvinist side above). Shelton shows what a responsible Arminian reading of them looks like. I think that in several of them the words can be taken either way, depending on the assumptions we bring to the text. In the end my own moderate reformed view remained intact. But I think Shelton has shown that constructive dialog between Evangelical Arminians and Gospel Calvinists needs to continue, and that both sides will profit from making this doctrine—and Shelton’s fine treatment of it—central in that discussion.
Scripture, as I said, seems to say (or at least imply) both Prevenient Grace and Effectual Calling. That is a sign that we need to live inside the hair. If that seems a rather narrow and constricted space, remember: Like the Tardis and a certain Narnian stable, it is bigger on the inside than the outside.
Donald T. Williams, PhD
For more writing by Dr. Williams, visit http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds: The Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams, Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy, or Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters, all from Lantern Hollow Press: poems and prose in pursuit of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty!