Truth, not Wishful Thinking

Erica Komisar recently wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that made me really sad.  It was titled “Don’t Believe in God? Lie to Your Children.”

The author is a psychoanalyst.  That is her perspective and milieu.  She starts:

As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents.  One of the most important explanations– and perhaps the most neglected– is declining interest in religion.  This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.

She cites a Harvard study that reported teens who attended “a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness.”

And then this:

I am often asked by parents, “How do I talk to my child about death if I don’t believe in God or Heaven?”  My answer is always the same.’ Lie.’  The idea that you simply die and turn to dust may work for some adults, but it doesn’t help children.  Belief in heaven helps them grapple with this tremendous and incomprehensible loss.  In an age of broken families, distracted parents, school violence and nightmarish global-warming predictions, imagination plays a big part in children’s ability to cope.

God help us.  It is also critical for adults to finally understand it is absolutely true that God is, and God is in control, and God loves us!  I want to tell the author that it is never good to lie to our children.  How much better to doggedly search for the truth of who we are, and what is the meaning of life.  And it is revealed in the good news of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the God-man.  Our Savior.

The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus is one of the best documented facts of antiquity.  Check it out.

Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying

 

I much prefer this hymn version to the choral arrangement that dominates the youtube offerings.

1. “Wake, awake, for night is flying,”
The watchmen on the heights are crying;
“Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices:
“Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise?
The Bridegroom comes, awake!
Your lamps with gladness take!
Hallelujah!
With bridal care Yourselves prepare
To meet the Bridegroom, who is near.”

2. Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing,
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all-glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious,
Her Star is ris’n, her Light is come.
“Now come, Thou Blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,
Hail! Hosanna!
The joyful call We answer all
And follow to the nuptial hall.”

3. Now let all the heav’ns adore Thee,
Let men and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where, dwelling with the choir immortal,
We gather round Thy radiant throne.
No vision ever brought,
No ear hath ever caught,
Such great glory;
Therefore will we Eternally
Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee.

Vindication vs. Intercession

In an entry of Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest titled “The Distraction of Contempt” my father underlined this:

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Recently I have been thinking about the meaning and causes of “having a critical spirit” so this caught my attention (and it is November 23 today).

I have at least three thoughts on this.  One is that Christ followers are called to take up their cross and follow Jesus.  Just as he was misunderstood and maligned I can expect that too.  So as much as I want to make sure I am understood and correct misconceptions, I need to accept that is not always possible, especially when there is a world view divide.  Secondly, and more importantly, I think, is that ultimately it is God who convicts and corrects, not me.  But I have been taught to intercede so that needs to be my primary response.

The Christian’s Love

The words will be familiar to a lot of you who don’t sing Sacred Harp, or Shape Note Singing.  This is the song I requested today when our Sacred Harp group in Savannah sang.

1. Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

2. Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.

4. When we asunder part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.

The third verse is omitted in our book, but I like it:

3. We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.

 

 

The Same Yesterday and Today

Before my father’s funeral I was looking for something he once sent me.  I never found it.  Most likely it is in my collection in Savannah.  Today I read something that sent me to a very large old family Bible.  Paging through it I found a typewritten copy of the same quote, I’m sure was also typed by my Dad (typewriters have their own fingerprint).   In my memory the quote was about introducing your child to a living faith in Christ, truly speaking about a life of significance,  but I see now it is also about what that means over a lifespan. IMG_3778.jpg

The other thing that struck me as typical of my father is his sense of beauty.  I love that he typed that border on the top and bottom.

Crying Out For Myth and Parable

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After reading this essay, I want to read Bradley Birzer’s book:

Myth, Tolkien thought, can convey the sort of profound truth that was intransigent to description or analysis in terms of facts and figures, and is therefore a more powerful weapon for cultural renewal than is modern rationalist science and technology.[11] Myth can emphasize the beauty of God’s creation as well as the sacramental nature of life.[12] “Our time, sick nigh unto death of utilitarianism and literalness, cries out for myth and parable,” American novelist and political philosopher Russell Kirk explained. “Great myths are not merely susceptible of rational interpretation: they are truth, transcendent truth.”[13] Tolkien believed that myth can teach men and women how to be fully and truly men and women, not mere cogs in the vast machine of modern technological society.

In his inimitable way, Chesterton once wrote that

imaginative does not mean imaginary. It does not follow that it is all what the moderns call subjective, when they mean false. Every true artist does feel, consciously or unconsciously, that he is touching transcendental truths; that his images are shadows of things seen through the veil. In other words, the natural mystic does know that there is something there; something behind the clouds or within the trees; but he believes that the pursuit of beauty is the way to find it; that imagination is a sort of incantation that can call it up.[14]

Besides offering an essential path to the highest truths, myth plays a vital role in any culture because it binds together members of communities. “It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by a majority of the people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad,” Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy.[15] Communities “share symbols and myths that provide meaning in their existence as a people and link them to some transcendent order,” political theorist Donald Lutz explains. “The shared meaning and a shared link to some transcendent order allow them to act as a people.”[16] The man “who has no sympathy with myths,” Chesterton concluded, “has no sympathy with men.”[17] One cannot, it seems, separate men from their myths.

….For Tolkien, however, even pagan myths attempted to express God’s greater truths. True myth has the power to revive us, to serve as an anamnesis, or way of bringing to conscious experience ancient experiences with transcendence. But, Tolkien admitted, myth could be dangerous, or “perilous,” as he usually stated it, if it remained pagan. Therefore, Tolkien thought, one must sanctify it, that is, make it Christian and put it in God’s service.

Birth From the Top Down

Another new hymn to me, this one found in Sinclair B. Ferguson’s book Know Your Christian Life.  

From the chapter “Born Again” in which this old hymn is referenced:

    The new birth is, firstly, heavenly in origin.  Over and over again Christ emphasised this to Nicodemus.  He needed to be born of water ‘and the Spirit’, for only the Spirit gives birth to spirit…Indeed the principle is heavily underlined by the expression ‘born again’.  The word John uses, translated ‘again’, can mean either again or from above. It is difficult to be dogmatic about its significance here.  On the one hand, Nicodemus appears to follow through Jesus’ words in terms of being born ‘again’ i.e. for a second time.  He raises the question whether someone can re-enter the womb.  But the other uses of the word in John strengthen the case for translating ‘from above’.  In John 3: 31; 19;11, 23, it conveys the idea from the top downwards.  If we take it in this sense then we are still able to make sense of Nicodemus’ response.  When Jesus tells him that he needs to be born from above, only faintly understanding the meaning, he lamely asks whether another birth is possible.

    The corollary of this is often ignored.  If we are members of that kingdom it must be by heavenly birth!  In other words, if we are Christians it can only be because God has wonderfully intervened to give us new life.  Every Christian ought to think long and hard about this, because we have an inevitable and at times very worldly tendency to regard some ‘conversions’ as being more wonderful or amazing than others. ‘Miraculous’ we say when a famous celebrity is ‘born again’, and of course we are right.  But the miracle involved in the new birth of John or James Smith, whose name never appears in either Christian or secular press, is no less miraculous, no less wonderful and no less a cause of joy in heaven.  It involves the same exercise of divine power and the same abundance of God’s love.  What we need to do, therefore, if we would enter into the joys of our new birth is not to cast a glance over our shoulder enviously regarding the spiritual biography of another, but to search the Scriptures to see the rich measure of grace that God pours into every new child of God!