Blog Archives

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

Review: Vaus

Note: This review was originally published in

SEVEN: An Anglo-American Review 29 (2013): 112-13.

Will Vaus, Speaking of Jack: A C. S. Lewis Discussion Guide. (Hamden, CT: Winged Lion Press, 2011), $14.95 (278 pp., paperback).

Speaking of Jack is that rare phenomenon, a book about C. S. Lewis that is actually useful.  Avid readers of Lewis are familiar with what they find all too often: dull rehashing, in the inferior paraphrase of the author, of things Lewis said better and which would more profitably have been read in Lewis himself; endless recycling of the facts one already knows.  But this book is different.  Its intended audience, people leading discussion groups or teaching classes on Lewis, will find it quite handy, and general students of Lewis will find that it packages some of the information available elsewhere in useful ways.

Wardrobe-Murray

Another place to look for insight into Lewis’s work.

Speaking of Jack goes through every Lewis book, from Boxen to posthumous collections of essays like God in the Dock, in chronological order.  For each book Vaus gives an introduction to its place in Lewis’s life and in the Lewis canon, followed by from ten to twenty suggested discussion questions.  This material is prefaced by a detailed biographical timeline into which the books can be fit, and followed by the same treatment given to a couple of key books about Lewis (Sayers’ Jack and Gresham’s Lenten Lands), a suggested outline for a course on Lewis, complete with suggested readings and discussion questions, suggestions for planning a Lewis tour of Ireland and England, and a selected bibliography.

The introductions are informative and succinct and laced with footnotes for those who want additional information.  It is rather impressive how much Vaus manages to say in few words.  The discussion questions will naturally vary in their suggestiveness and utility for different readers.  In each section I found some at least that I was eager to try out on my own students.  For example, we get this on The Last Battle: “In the penultimate chapter Digory says, ‘It’s all in Plato.’  What is in Plato?  Compare and contrast the biblical and Platonic worldviews.  Which do you think Jack is closer to representing in this book?” (166). Students will have to do some research as well as some critical thinking to answer this question; indeed, the leader or teacher might be forced to do some brushing up in preparation for the discussion.  Most importantly, it drives us deeper into the heart of Lewis’s thinking.

CSLPhoto2

Will Vaus is not a professional academic, but a minister, speaker, and leader of discussion groups on Lewis.  His standards of scholarship are as sound as any academic’s, though (he is also the author of other books on Lewis, such as Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis, IVP), and his practical experience in working with discussion groups combines with his scholarship to give us a unique contribution that will serve its readers well. Let the speaking of Jack this book will facilitate begin.

DONALD T. WILLIAMS

To order Dr. Williams’ books, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Stars Through the Clouds

QUESTIONS IN EVIDENCE

Christianity, I would argue, is true.  If this were so, you would expect to see evidence of that truth staring you in the face everywhere you turn.  So why do so many people seem to miss it?  Part of the secret is learning to ask the right questions.  For example:

If God isn’t there, then why is the world there?   If the universe is just matter and energy evolving by chance, why has it bothered to evolve at all?  Why hasn’t it just run down into a pool of useless entropy, since by the Second Law of Thermodynamics the usable energy in any system always decreases?  Why does it behave so consistently?  If things just happen by chance, why are all the natural laws the same today as they were yesterday?  Why do we want things to make sense?  Where did the notion of making sense come from?  If intelligence and order were not put into the universe from the outside, how did they get here?  If matter is such neat stuff that it has the tendency to evolve intelligence all by itself, why has it evolved a life form whose intelligence only serves to keep it from feeling at home in the cosmos that gave rise to it?  Why does that life form have aspirations for love, meaning, purpose, and immortality, all of which are unfulfillable, indeed, meaningless, in a universe in which matter and energy are the ultimate reference point?  Why does the universe make sense only up to a point?  More importantly why does that fact bother us?

If man is not fallen, if his central problem is not true moral guilt before God, if he is not a sinner, then why do all the ink pens in the banks have chains on them?  If education is really the answer to man’s problems, why is the venereal disease rate so high on college campuses?

Speaking of college campuses, why do students there talk about what they are going to do when they get out into the “real world”?  Where in tarnation do they think they are now?  When I taught at the University of Georgia, I used to tell my students that if they stepped off the curb in from of a campus bus, it would kill them just as dead as a city bus would–perhaps deader, knowing the people who drove the campus buses.  Why did they pay all that money to take courses and then try to see who could get the least out of them?  Do they really think they will suddenly become responsible and dependable workers just by moving their tassels when they have just spent the last four years practicing for the opposite roles?  If you want to be convinced of the reality of the Fall and of total depravity, just try to teach the average college freshman to write a complete sentence.

It’s absolutely amazing the kind and number of things that make sense only if you believe the Bible’s version of who Man is!

Here are a few more.

Why do professional athletes make more money than school teachers?  The answer to that is simple:  they are the very best at what they do, and they obey the law of supply and demand.  But here is a more difficult question.  Why do postal employees and Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority bus drivers–who only need a high school education–make more than school teachers?  And a still more difficult question:  If we don’t care enough about our kids to raise them ourselves, but rather put them in institutions (ahem–day care) when they are six weeks old so we can so we can go out and make more money to buy essential items like Jordache jeans and BMW’s–if our kids are that low on our scale of values–why do we bother to pay school teachers anything at all?

None of these questions is answerable from outside the biblical world view with its framework of creation, fall, and redemption.  The Post-Modern generation is suspicious of people with answers.  So maybe first we should just be people with questions.  Hey, it works on Jeopardy.

And here’s a real serious question.  Why are missionaries, who read the Bible and who do not have BMW’s, Jordache jeans, or various other necessities of life, so often the happiest people you are ever likely to meet?  If you think about that one long enough, you just might discover that the answer is about the greatest proof of the Christian faith since the Temple Guard had to be paid off to hush up the resurrection.

Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar and Professor of English at Toccoa Falls College in the hills of NE Georgia. 

Order Stars through the Clouds ($15.00) or Reflections from Plato’s Cave ($15.00) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

 

XXII

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.”

 

Any growing poet needs to be nurtured by the great poetry (and other literature, too) of the past, both for the sake of learning technique and of deepening his own soul.  I wasn’t the first to find the Psalter essential for both.  The Psalms are a catalog of the full gamut of religious emotion.  Not just exercises in pious ejaculations, they sometimes show impiety wrestled with and overcome.  David and his fellow psalmists were not afraid to question God; they were not afraid to ask the hard questions.  They were not afraid to reveal their own doubts and their own sufferings.  But they always win through to peace in the end.  Oh, yes, there are some good lessons there!

 

ON DAVID WRITING THE PSALMS

 

Such words were never uttered unless by

Some battered brain’s true trial- and tear-taught try

To cry the thing, heart’s clearly seen lament

Before insight intense is spent

Diffused, dispersed, immersed and rent

But hurried passing Time.

 

Holy Spirit stooping, molding,

Prodding, soothing, moving, goading,

Guiding, forming in this writing

Sword or torch of Truth abiding,

Made to smite complacence in its nest,

To bore into the soul, unbidden guest,

And wake the wound that slumbers in man’s breast:

A memory of the universe at rest.

Donald T. Williams, PhD