Category Archives: Christianity

CLXXXIX

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.”

 Jesus loved to answer questions with a question.  All of his together raise one more for us.

COMING

By every dead and risen corn of grain,

By every word of prophecy declared,

By every lamb on every altar slain,

By every scapegoat led away and spared,

He came to people who had been prepared.

 

By all the suffering multitudes he healed,

By all the simple parables he taught,

By lost sheep and the lilies of the field,

By his friendship with Iscariot,

He came to them–and they received him not.

 

By all the prophets and apostles said,

By every thought that ever has been true,

By every drop of blood the martyrs shed,

By every spring when life begins anew,

He comes to us–and now, what will we do?

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, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CLXXXVIII

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 last line of the sonnet from last week was too good to be used just once, so naturally I made it one of the repeater lines of a villanelle.

 

THE PARADOX

The irony: the angels came to sing

To shepherds, while the scribes slept through the night

Condemned, and incognito came the king.

The Magi came from far away to bring

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and learn by sight

The irony the angels came to sing.

Herod found no humor in the thing,

And Joseph woke from sleep to sudden flight,

Condemned and incognito, from the king.

Mary found it food for pondering,

And often in her heart she would recite

The irony the angels came to sing.

But there would be no final reckoning

Of what it meant, ‘til up Golgotha’s height,

Condemned and incognito, came the king.

And now it’s left for us by faith to cling

To him whose empty tomb brought full to light

The irony the angels came to sing:

Condemned and incognito came the King.

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, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

 

 

CLXXXVII

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.”

Let’s see if we can put ourselves back into the scene of the old story so that its full impact hits us again, despite our familiarity with its details.  Naturally, a Petrarchan Sonnet is just the way to do that.

 

THE IRONY

The shepherds had no word for paradox

(A learned term), but scratching of the head

Was something that they knew, and as they sped

Toward Bethlehem, abandoning their flocks,

And stumbling in their haste upon the rocks,

They did some over what the angel’d said:

Messiah in a manger for a bed?

A king whose courtiers were ass and ox?

 

Perhaps the biggest part of the surprise

Was that they were the ones who should be told:

This savior did not seem to fit the mold

Constructed by the Mighty and the Wise.

To stable smells and angels’ caroling,

Condemned and incognito came the King.

A Cave in Bethlehem, like the one where Jesus was born

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, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CLXXXVI

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 trick in writing a good villanelle is to make the repeater lines varied without being varied.  Note here how the line “The glory latent in the flesh: a rose” has exactly the same words but is punctuated differently each time it appears.  And then in the last line, the pun in the division of the world arose carries the weight of the entire development.  I was pleased with how this villanelle turned out.  See if you are.

FIRSTFRUITS 2

The saints believe what every lover knows

Who, gazing on one face, can plainly see

The glory latent in the flesh: a rose.

If Love is what leads lovers to compose

Their songs of praise and deeds of charity,

Then saints believe what every lover knows.

The truth the Heavens declare, the Firmament shows,

To starry-eyed and moon-struck is most free:

The glory latent.  In the flesh, a rose

Can shine in cheeks as brightly and disclose

To opened eyes as deep a mystery

Which saints believe and every lover knows.

Yet ash to ash and dust to dust it goes,

An aching void its only legacy,

The glory latent in the flesh.  A rose

Will lose its petals, yet the Spring bestows

New life; but what hope for the flesh can be?

The saints believe what every lover knows:

The Glory latent in the Flesh arose.

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, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

He is Risen Indeed!

As we approach Good Friday and Easter, we might wonder whether we can really believe in the historicity of the events we celebrate.  Let’s tackle then the strongest argument ever made against them.  One of the more influential arguments in the history of philosophy is David Hume’s argument against the rationality of belief in miracles.  It goes like this:

1.  A miracle is a violation of a natural law.

2.  Natural laws are based on “uniform human experience.”

3.  Therefore any report of a miracle has the entire experience of humanity against it.
4.  Therefore it is always more rational to believe that the person reporting a miracle is either deceived himself or is deceiving you than it is to believe he is telling the truth.

David Hume

Hume’s infamous argument does explain why we are rightly skeptical about most claims of the miraculous and demand pretty good evidence before we believe them. But it has two flaws.  First, we do not have to accept the definition that a miracle would violate natural law.  God might perform miracles by applying  force to nature that our understanding of natural law could not have predicted–but the object to which that force was applied could respond to it without breaking any laws at all.  If the definition of miracle need not be accepted, then the rest of the argument is moot.
Second, Hume commits the fallacy of circular reasoning.
How is the argument circular?  It is because he cheats on the phrase “uniform human experience.” How could we know that human experience of the irreversibility of death was uniform before looking to see if the alleged eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were truly exceptions to it?  We couldn’t. and Hume didn’t.  Having cheated on the word “uniform,” Hume cannot then justify his use of the word “always” when he says it is always more rational to believe that the one reporting a miracle is either deceived or deceiving than to believe he is telling the truth. If the attestation is strong enough, if the alternative explanations are sufficiently stretched and unable to account for the data, and if the miracle in question fits elegantly enough with what we know to be the plan and purposes of God, then there could be times, albeit rare, when it is indeed more rational to believe.

 

Hume thinks he is nailing shut the lid on the coffin when he says that we would only be justified in believing a miracle if the alternative was more miraculous than the miracle itself. He thinks he is driving the last nail into the coffin, but he has really just handed Christian believers the game. For the resurrection of Christ neatly meets precisely that criterion. When you compare the egregious ignorance of the physiology of crucifixion and tomb construction required to accept the “swoon theory,” or the gullible naivety required to believe in mass hallucinations, etc., with the demands made on our credulity by the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead, the finality of Hume’s defeat becomes inescapable.

For it is not some random dude about whom we make this claim. It is the Son of Man.  It is the one whose coming had been prepared by Providence and predicted by prophecy for two thousand years.  It is the one whose disciples kept asking themselves “What manner of man is this?”  This is one who spoke like no man ever spoke.  This is one who had already shown himself to be sovereign over life and death. If ever there was one about whom we could rationally believe such a thing, it was this man. It was Jesus of Nazareth.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.
Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College in the hills of NE Georgia.  He is the author of ten books, most recently Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Lantern Hollow Press, 2016).