On this 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation I want to finish reading Alister McGrath’s book Reformation Thought: An Introduction. When I started reading, a few months ago, I immediately realized that what I thought I knew about that time and the purposes and processes of the Reformation was paltry at best. I anticipate enjoying the book, and coming away with a better understanding because I’ve read several books by McGrath. He is a good writer. I trust him to be knowledgeable about anything he commits to writing, and as accurate, easy to understand, and truthful as possible.
From the chapter titled Introduction:
…..The sad state of the church in the early sixteenth century was simply a symptom of a more radical disease—a deviation from the distinctive ideas of the Christian faith, a loss of intellectual identity, a failure to grasp what Christianity really was. Christianity could not be reformed without an understanding of what Christianity was actually meant to be…. [T]he obvious decline of the late Renaissance church was the latest stage in a gradual process which had been going on since about the theological renaissance of the twelfth century—the corruption of Christian doctrine and ethics.
Confronting corruption of Christian doctrine and ethics is an ongoing, and always contemporary battle. Reformation (in the perfect tense) is central to Christianity, both on a personal and corporate level.
Dwight Longenecker writes about why he thinks Jane Austen continues to appeal to readers today.
Beneath Austen’s humor is humility. She satirizes the vain, silly, pompous, proud, and prejudiced, but she does so with good nature and an underlying kindness. She is often cutting, but never cruel. She laughs, but she doesn’t mock. She understands that humor and humility are rooted in humus—the earth. She knows that we are but dust and to dust we shall return—and that knowledge makes her kind.
Like all great writers, she has an innate understanding of human psychology, and she teaches that the more one knows, the more one can forgive.
…. If humility and humor are linked with humus, then it follows that the humble are down to earth. They are full of common sense. Her heroines (like Elinor Dashwood or Anne Elliot) either see through the vanity, foolishness, and pride of their family and friends, or (like Emma Woodhouse, Marianne Dashwood, and Elizabeth Bennet) they grow up through their trials, see through the vanity, and learn the virtue of humility.
The humility Austen displays is not the false obsequiousness of the social climber or the false piety of the self-consciously religious. Instead true humility is linked with a clear vision of reality. Austen’s heroes are the men and women who see and accept themselves and others with clarity and charity. They accept that good manners and good morals dictate the way to behave towards others, and that such manners and morals must always be genuine and from the heart—not simply a display of outward artifice or the result of social accomplishment.
The continued appeal of Austen’s work is therefore not simply in the comic moments and the enjoyable sighs of a love story well told. Instead the audience is intrigued and inspired by the discovery of true simplicity and humility hidden within the complex, deceitful web of human pride and prejudice.
From an 2009 blog post I ran across today:
In the days of cell phones, email, and text messages, letter writing can seem hopelessly outdated. But it’s an art worth bringing back, and not because of some misplaced sense of nostalgia either. The writing and reception of letters will always offer an experience that modern technology cannot touch. Twitter is effective for broadcasting what you’re eating for lunch, and email is fantastic for quick exchanges on the most pertinent pieces of information. But when it comes to sharing one’s true thoughts, sincere sympathies, ardent love, and deepest gratitude, words traveling along an invisible superhighway will never suffice. Why?
Because sending a letter is the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door. Ink from your pen touches the stationary, your fingers touch the paper, your saliva seals the envelope. Something tangible from your world travels through machines and hands, and deposits itself in another’s mailbox. Your letter is then carried inside as an invited guest. The paper that was sitting on your desk, now sits on another’s. The recipient handles the paper that you handled. Letters create a connection that modern, impersonal forms of communication will never approach.
Today I received a letter from my Dad. He is 96 years old now and arthritis makes it difficult for him to write, so he types short (and very welcome) letters. In this one Dad commented on the heat in Arizona, over 100 degrees, and said he remembers working in the fields at home in that temperature…
One day we were in a field next to a bank with a constantly flowing cold spring. We made many excursions to it.
Even our horses had their hats, straw hats with cutouts for the ears.
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Loving-kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout heav’n’s eternal days.
On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.
Tallis’s original tune is in the Phrygian mode and was one of the nine he contributed to the Psalter of 1567 for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker. When Vaughan Williams edited the English Hymnal of 1906, he also included this melody (number 92). Parker’s original words were:
- Why fumeth in fight: The Gentils spite,
- In fury raging stout?
- Why taketh in hond: The people fond,
- Vayne thinges to bring about?
- The kinges arise: The lordes devise,
- In counsayles mett thereto:
- Agaynst the Lord: With false accord,
- Against his Christ they go.
- — Psalm 2:1–2 — Archbishop Parker’s Psalter (1567)
Part of Vaughan’s composition was featured in the 2003 film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.