Dayhiker’s Dilemma

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.”

The passage of time is one of the great mysteries, and it strangely impacts our experience of everything in life.  Robert Frost noted how it adds poignance to  the beauties of nature; for half the haunting quality of his snowy wood was the fact that he had “miles to go” before he slept.  Sometimes it is also a practical problem.

DAYHIKER’S DILEMMA

Sonnet XLVIII

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Free from the load of tent and sleeping bag,

You pay by being more a slave to time.

Measure it by watch or sun, the snag

Is there, though slopes are easier to climb.

It is the time you have to turn around

To make it back to camp or car by night.

It is a law inexorable, profound,

And it will win (though not without a fight!).

It’s best to set a time that has some play;

You cannot go but what you feel the spell.

The hidden barrier that bars your way

Asks to be pushed a bit, e’er it can quell

The voice that calls you on.  It has no end,

The lure of what lies just around the bend.

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C. S. Lewis noted that man’s uncomfortable relationship to time marks him as made for a larger world—do fish constantly manifest surprise at how wet water is, like we do about how time has passed? Yet without time there could be no movement, and hence no quest. I still want to know what lies around the bend—including the last Bend past which no man can see in this life.  Time will tell.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://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.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out Sept. 1, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

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The Cloak, the Books, and the Parchments

We have a guest blogger today, a man who would probably have been appalled at the very idea of appearing in a blog: my mentor and former pastor Dr. Alan Dan Orme, the founder of University Church in Athens, GA.  This passage is from his sermon “The Cloak, the Books, and the Parchments,” on 2 Tim. 4:13.  Paul asks Timothy,

When you come, bring the cloak I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.”

First a work of explanation:  “Common grace” is grace that God gives to all men, as opposed to “special” or “saving” grace, which only comes to those who put their faith in Christ.  Common grace is what allows even fallen and sinful human beings to do things that are positively good, including the goods of culture.  Here then is Dr. Orme’s commentary on Paul’s request.  And here is my question:  When is the last time you heard something like this from the pulpit?  And a second which is like unto it:  Is your answer not an index of how sick American Christianity has become?  Here’s the excerpt:

The house Dr. Orme rebuilt, the current meeting place of University Church

The house Dr. Orme rebuilt, the current meeting place of University Church

Even in the year of his death, Paul was intending on studying general literature which was the common heritage of human beings—of the people of the Lord and the people of the world, alike.

In principle, Paul here gives an example of a realm of human activity and civilization that was one step higher than the body and creaturely comforts: it is the realm of the mind. Paul wanted to exercise his mind and learn from that mass of literature that God had given to the world, not by inspiration, as he had the Scriptures, but by common grace.

This realm of thinking tends to justify a university education and the educated professions, but it also justifies your being interested in secular learning even over and above any help it might be as an aid to interpreting and applying the Bible. We do not know all the books Paul had in his library, but he quotes from poetry, drama, history, and fiction throughout his writings.

"The Books": This is Codex Alexandrinus, one of the earliest copies of the whole Bible.

“The Books”: This is Codex Alexandrinus, one of the earliest copies of the whole Bible.

In your lifetime pilgrimage, do not be afraid to expose yourself to the scrolls. It is God’s world, and all of these things belong to us who are his children. You don’t need to be like Jerome and his friend Rufinus, who copied out and studied the classics and then lied a little bit that they were too spiritual to read such stuff. You can admit it!

Love the English language. Frequently use the dictionary. Read some history. One of the wonderful gifts that God has given us by common grace is the gift of culture and civilization. Advance to the limit of your abilities in appreciation for fine music. Make Christ Lord over the realm of culture and the mind, and then with thanksgiving to the Lord of all creation, responsibly enjoy his gifts. Free yourself from the froth that is on television and feed yourself with something that will enhance your mind, your life, and your Christian walk.

Monet's "Water Lilies": Fine Art and Music . . .

Monet’s “Water Lilies”: Fine Art and Music . . .

But do this responsibly. This realm must be used according to God’s commandments, as must be the realm of the senses and the body. But it is always in subordination to the spiritual, and the eternal, and the welfare of your everlasting soul.

Dr. Alan Dan Orme, “The Cloak, the Books, and the Parchments,” 2 Tim. 4:13, 3/9/03

For more of Dr. Orme’s sermons (and some by regular blogger Donald T. Williams), go to http://www.theuniversitychurch.org.  To order Dr. Williams’s books, ($15.00 + shipping), go to  https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Negative Capability

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.”

“Negative Capability” is a phrase Keats used for the ability of a poet to get himself out of the way and be absorbed completely in the  natural scene he is experiencing, and which he will eventually try to describe in his poem.  If you let yourself be absorbed in Scripture in the same way at the same time, the results could be life-changing.

 

NEGATIVE CAPABILITY

 

Go to the ancient forest,

And there you will find your heart

Enthroned in a shrine of darkness

From which it can’t depart.

 

Go to the barren desert

Beneath the blazing sky;

You’ll find your heart is burning

With a flame that will not die.

Desert

Go to the trackless ocean,

And there beneath the waves

You’ll find your heart is drowning

In hollow emerald caves.

 

But go to Mount Golgotha,

Beneath the looming Cross,

And there your heart will fail you,

Born down by grief and loss.

Crucifixion-Glass

And if Another’s pain there

Seems strangely like your own

And your heart cries, “Here I should

Have died, and I alone!”

 

Then go to the lonely Garden

Beside the graven Tomb,

And wait there in the silence

To abide your doom.

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It will come as sharp and sudden

As the whistling of a knife:

To know the Tomb is empty

And your heart is full of life.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://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.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out Sept. 1, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD

The Need of the Hour

I have said this here before.  It needs saying again.  Someday I may repeat it yet a third time.  It is that important.

As I look at the current scene, I see a church in desperate need of three great movements of God:

  • Renaissance:
    A recovery of the life of the mind. An increasingly illiterate generation is harder to reach with a faith founded on the message of a Book; an increasingly illiterate church is incapable of experiencing full-orbed Christianity based on the whole counsel of God revealed in the Text of that Book. Electronic inundation keeps us perpetually distracted.  From a cultural (rather than a technical) standpoint, we may well be entering a new Dark Ages.  The original rebirth of learning and culture that we call the Renaissance started with a recovery of interest in reading classical literature in the original languages using grammatico-historical exegesis to recover its original message to its original audience.  God used that movement with its motto of ad fontes, “back to the sources,” to make the Reformation, the recovery of the pristine Gospel of the New Testament, possible.  Martin Luther recognized this:  “Whenever God wants to break forth truth anew out of His holy Word, he prepares the way by the rise of languages and letters, as if they were John the Baptists.”  The renewal of languages and letters: That was the Renaissance!  If history repeats itself, a new Renaissance just might lead to a new . .
Gutenberg bible. The printing press was one contribution of the Renaissance.

Gutenberg bible. The printing press was one contribution of the Renaissance.

  • Reformation:
    A recovery of sound doctrine. When the new learning of the Renaissance, the ad fontes tradition, was applied to Scripture, the original documents were enabled to speak again with their own voice.  This led to a recovery of sound doctrine in five areas:  Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, interpreted in context in the original language by grammatico-historical exegesis, is the only infallible and inerrant authority and final court of appeal; Sola Gratia, salvation is by grace, God’s unmerited favor, alone, apart from works; Sola Fide, salvation is received by the empty hands of faith alone; Solus Christus, Christ alone is the only Mediator between God and men; Soli Deo Gloria, God’s glory alone is the end of salvation and the purpose of all of life.  All these truths are in danger of being lost again.  We therefore need a new Renaissance leading to a new Reformation.   Otherwise, we will continue to gorge ourselves on spiritual junk food while the great truths of the faith slip through our fingers.  But if God would grant us Renaissance and Reformation again, they just might lead to . . .
John Calvin, Scholar of both the Renaissance and the Reformation

John Calvin, Scholar of both the Renaissance and the Reformation

  • Revival:
    A recovery of vital spirituality. The great error of our generation is to believe that this recovery is possible apart from the first two. Biblically and historically, it is not. We have seen that Martin Luther recognized the debt the Reformation owed to the Renaissance, and his words are worth repeating:  “Whenever God wants to break forth truth anew out of His Word, he prepares the way by the rise of languages and letters, as if they were John the Baptists.”  And the leaders of the First Great Awakening, the great Revival of the Eighteenth Century in England and America, saw themselves as continuing the work of the Reformation.  If Christianity is true, then only the faithful preaching of the pure Gospel of the New Testament (Reformation) can give us the genuine spirituality and real Christian lives that Revival is all about.  Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! Without Renaissance and Reformation, all our zeal for Revival is vanity and striving after wind.
John Wesley, a leader of the First Great Awakening

John Wesley, a leader of the First Great Awakening

  • Do not stop praying and working for Revival.  But do start praying and working for the Renaissance and Reformation without which no true revival with lasting impact is possible.

Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College.  For more of his writings, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and purchase his books, Inklings of Reality (a Christian approach to reading), Stars Through the Clouds (his poetry), and Reflections from Plato’s Cave (Evangelical essays in pursuit of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty).

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

CLVI

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.”

Several recent years of drought in the Southeastern U. S. recall one of a couple decades ago.

desert

Fifteen feet of barrel-floated dock

Lies beached, a grotesque whale upon the shore;

And you could walk another ten or more

Before you hit the water.  Many a rock

That men’s eyes have not seen since back before

The dam was built lies drying in the sun.

Already autumn yellow has begun

To show up in the limbs and on the floor

As trees go dormant, trying, one by one,

To save themselves to grow another day.

Fish die;  the corn is dead;  the people pray,

But not yet seriously enough to shun

The wide gate and the broad and easy way.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://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.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out Sept. 1, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD