Category Archives: Theology

CLXXXXII

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.”

 Saul’s conversion experience on the Road to Damascus hanged him from a persecutor of the Christian church to its greatest missionary; it changed him from Saul the Pharisee to Paul the Apostle; it eventually changed the church from a Jewish sect to a universal faith; and thus it changed the world.  Let’s try to get inside his head via a villanelle:

ROAD TO DAMASCUS

“I am Jesus whom you persecute.”

“If you’re the Christ, why isn’t Israel free?”

I’d thought it something he could not refute.

He did not argue;   he was almost mute,

His searing radiance just content to be:

“I am Jesus whom you persecute.”

And I was on a journey, resolute

To stamp his sect out once and finally.

Death was an answer that they could not refute!

But how they faced it shook me to the root,

And now this Flame was burning into me,

“I am Jesus whom you persecute.”

Gamaliel had taught me all the fruit

That reason could produce–a Pharisee,

I had traditions no one could refute–

But now it was all burning into soot,

The Fire blinding me so I could see:

I Am Jesus whom you persecute.”

It was a Reason I could not refute.

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

CLXXXXII

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.”

 Plato started a lot of conversations that he couldn’t finish.  He was trying to find the universal and the absolute by looking in the wrong place.  He sought well, but the final answer was beyond his grasp.  But he sets the questions up better than anyone.  What if there was someone who could come into Plato’s Cave from the outside world of the sun?   What then?

Plato

REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO’S CAVE

The fleeting shadows flow across the wall;

That’s all we know.  We think they may arise

Outside our minds, and bring before our eyes

Some glimpse of Truth–but by the time they fall

To us, a faint and hieroglyphic scrawl

Is all that’s left.  We try to analyze,

Deduce from patterns what the shapes disguise–

They’re hard to catch and harder to recall.

 

We think reflections of Reality

Are cast by Sunlight shining–how we crave

To turn and look–but still we strive in vain.

No merely mortal man will ever see

Whether the Door behind us in the Cave

Is there, so firmly Fate has bound our chain.

 

So many years we strove against the chain

That gradually some gave up, and hope was dead.

“There is no Door; there is no Cave,” they said,

“No explanation, nothing to explain.

It’s just a game you play inside your brain:

All the poetry you’ve ever read

Makes chemical reactions in your head;

That’s all that Pleasure is, and also Pain.”

 

What of the Beautiful, the True, the Good?

“They’re all illusions; they are all the same,

Sounds upon the wind, an empty name,

And that is all that can be understood.”

But then the rule that says that nothing’s true

Must be applied to their denial too!

 

So hope could not completely be denied.

Yet still the shadows flicker on the wall,

And we’re not certain what they mean at all

In spite of every theory we have tried.

If only one of us could get outside

Into the Light that fills that vaster hall

And not go blind, but come back and recall

For us the land where the True Shapes abide!

 

If only–but the ancient Grecian knew

No way that it could be.  It seemed absurd

To hope or to despair.  So still the True

Was but in shadows seen, in echoes heard–

Until the birth of a barbaric Jew

Who was in the Beginning; was the Word.

The Word

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

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

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).

CLXXXI

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.”

 

Habakkuk is supremely the prophet who wrestles with the mystery of how God works even through evil to accomplish His purposes of good for His people (cf. Rom. 8:18-30, esp. 8:28).  This means that we often cannot see the good in the short run.  Yet still we must trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty.  “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, thought the yield of the olive should fail and the field produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”  We each have to find our own way to that place.

CSLComfortableLife

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Paraphrase: Habakkuk 3:17-19

 

Though all my friends should fade like the stars from the sky

Before the dawn,

Like the leaves in June that greet the breeze with a sigh

But soon are gone

When the Autumn winds blow sharp and cold, and nigh

The hearth you’re drawn

And the winter snows, so deathly still, seem to lie

A lifetime long.

Though this and worse should be my lot of woe

Or grief or care,

Though all of joy should be forgot and go

I know not where,

Though all the streams of time should seem to flow

Toward despair,

Still this would be my strength and song, to know

That You are there—

Unchanged since You laid down your life just so

I could be spared;

Yes this would be my strength and song, just to know

That You are there.

ResurrectionJesus-998x665

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!

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CLXXXII

 

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 sufferings of Christ on the Cross at that singular moment of space-time history were sufficient to pay for all our sins forever.  But they strangely do not end, not yet.  For He suffers continually along with His persecuted people, asking Saul why he was persecuting Him—and He feels acutely also the wounds they inflict upon themselves.  What the ultimate purpose of these additional sufferings is we do not know.  But they certainly serve to highlight the depths of Christ’s identification with His people.

 

COMMENTARY, HEB. 6:6

 

Behold it, battered beyond recognition:

It gazes, hardly human, through the thorns.

Weeping tears of shame, yet still it scorns

To call down angels and abort the mission.

Wonder, then, how long in this condition

It can endure to be so bruised and torn,

To bear fresh wounds on those already born

And still remain strung up on exhibition.

 

The world looks on and thinks it comprehends:

“Another Promise failed, a Name besmirched;

So must all false Messiahs make amends.”

You recognize, impaled upon its perch,

The Body of our Savior?  Oh, my friends—

This is the other Body of Christ:  the Church.

 

 

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!