My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

07 June 2006

A Quick Stop

Go to Greg Wilbur's blog and scroll down till you get to "Why I Like Catholic Authors." What a great post! It's a strong indictment of the reformed world; that those with a reformed worldview spend so much time debating that worldview instead of using it is a shame of the highest order. And so we're left with "evangelical" fiction. Young people: take up the charge. If you can write, don't stop! If you have your worldview down pat, take it off the shelf and put it to good use. Write, sing, sculpt, paint!

6 comments:

Kurt said...

Having grown up "on the other side of the fence" (the Lutheran and Roman Catholic world) and having only relatively recently come into the Reformed faith, I hope those who are enamored with Catholic writings will pause, catch their breath, and keep their wits about them when dealing with Catholic writings. I think Catherine, responding in the WilburBlog, is right on the mark when she says:

"I have countless times experienced the thrill of having the images in all their eschatological glory leap off the page while studying the works of such artists and poets as Homer, Dante, Melville, Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, Keats, Hopkins and Donne in a way that left me with the impression that their works were indeed, quite literally, inspired. But I believe that while we, as Protestants, can greatly appreciate the sublime beauty and truth embodied in the works of the great writers in the Catholic tradition, our basic presuppositions are too different for us to fully appreciate the underlying world and life view inherent in the Catholic understanding, or to write from this particular sacramental perspective. The Catholic’s vision and experience of God is always experienced through something else, another medium, never directly. They despise the very idea of a direct, linear path to the divine. And they dearly, dearly love the mediums, those cherished embodiments of grace, those Beatrices that mediate on the behalf of poor, needy and sinful Dantes. And this is the heart of Protestantism – that the Christian has direct access to God the Father, through Jesus Christ – that no other mediator or medium is required. Equally important is our belief that the cannon of Scripture is closed, that there is no other divinely inspired means to truth. We can’t look to works of art, philosophy, or any other man derived idea or work to bring us in and of itself to the truth – we must begin with that which God tells us is true, and weigh all other works and ideas against it...."

A real and present danger lies in trying to rationalize or emotionalize our current daily living and liturgical worship practices using Catholic writers or scholars, such as was recently done on this blog to buttress the snycretized Roman Catholic/pagan creation of the Christ-Mass celebration (Christmas), now regularly practiced only in the last two centuries by Protestant Christians through official worship and/or personal observance.

Am I saying never read a Catholic author? Of course not. But, with a superabundance of great works out there, should we or our impressionable children be spending much precious time reading novels by theologically Catholic-leaning authors? This makes about as much sense to this newly reformed Christian as spending valuable time reading any of the Left Behind series or Harry Potter series, when I could be reading the great Puritan writers, or for children, books that espouse right Christian thinking, not "compromising with the world" views.

So, as for me, I'll take the Puritan writers any day of the week, who started a great work by looking toward God directly by developing a personal relationship with Him, rather than looking toward repetitious worship liturgies, relics, nature, and other physical mediums.

We need to build on the Puritan efforts, not tear them down through intermingling distinctively Catholic thought and emotions with them, lest we forget and fall into worldly compromises that would have our great Puritan fathers rolling in their graves. Let's not place unnecessary roadblocks in our efforts to "be Reformed and ever reforming" by straying onto a rabbit trail by unnecessarily glorifying Roman Catholic syncretistic literature. Let's remember our Christian history, so we are not condemned to repeat it.

BTW, you all might want to take a gander at the following website and see a side of C.S. Lewis that you may have never seen before...http://www.crossroad.to/Excerpts/warnings.htm.

Jared said...

Kurt - thanks for your comments. Very thoughtful!

In response...

-I appreciate the warning to "keep our wits about us" when dealing with Catholic writings. Indeed. What I liked about Greg Wilbur's post was his point that Catholic writings are simply doing a better job than Protestant writers and this shouldn't be. We have a better (more Biblical, reformed) worldview, but we spend all our time polishing and sharpening it instead of putting it to good use. Clearly, we'd all rather read really good Protestant fiction, but it's just not there to be read.

-To say it another way, I'm really not sure there's a superabundance of good works out there that don't dip into a different sector of Christianity than Protestantism. If I'm wrong, please correct me - let me know what Protestant fiction writers I should be reading. Henty? Peretti? These simply can't hold a literary candle to some of the Catholic writers Wilbur mentions. Protestants have, by and large, lost the art of art and turned it into simply a tool of propaganda/evangelism.

-I take just a little umbrage at the charge of syncretism in relation to Christmas. Additionally, your claim that the Protestant church didn't observe Christmas until recently is simply unfounded. Many references appear in reformational literature to the celebration of Christ's birth/death/resurrection/ascension.

-Here's my dilemma: is a book that is "reformed" but really junky literarily better than a book that is roman but quite excellent literarily? I don't think so. I would rather expose my children to great literature written by people with somewhat skewed theology than really bad literature by people we might agree with more.
To put it a different way, "reformed" but inferior literature is not good for our kids because it teaches them that our worldview, in the end, doesn't produce excellence, only right thinking. I want both: I want reformed writers to write excellently. Till then, we're stuck in this gray area.

-Re: the Puritans. I don't think I'd take the Puritan writers any day of the week. It's a mixed bag with those fellas. Some really, really good. Some overly individualistic. Some pretty bad exegesis. Some really good exegesis. Rather than say, "we need to build on the Puritan efforts," I would much rather say we need to build on the historic Christian church's efforts. As you say, "let's remember our Christian [not just Puritan] history, so we are not condemned to repeat it."

-Finally, the website about Lewis' writings I found to be quite unfair, fearful, and excessive. As with Catholics, it's not wrong to keep our wits about us when we read Lewis, but to say the things they do about Narnia... that's close to literary blasphemy. ;)

Kurt said...

Jared,

"Protestant fiction" - If we really think about it, it sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Maybe there is good reason to believe that Catholic authors should be better at writing fiction. :)

Christmas - a very difficult subject to discuss without emotional entanglement. I have many fond memories, both secular and religious growing up in the Lutheran Church. Historically, in New England, the home of our reformed forebearers, Christmas was not celebrated by most people in the first two centuries of settlement (1607-early 1800's)due to theology and orthopraxy issues.

Puritans - They wrote profusely and many of their works are now being re-discovered and re-printed. Our true "Christian" history from 1500 on is the history of our imperfect reformers, from which we should be building, disgarding the bad. Can we say the same for non-Reformed literature which starts with a faulty foundation?

C.S. Lewis - Another tough subject like Christmas, much emotional attachment, especially going back to our youth with his fantasy stories we like to connect to Christianity. I agree that the website is not perfect in its assessments, but you gotta sit up and take notice of the direct quotations from books that Lewis has written that show the underpinnings of a syncretized belief system.

Lord of Rings/Harry Potter/Chronicles of Narnia – I know I am disparaging some sacred cows here, but I don’t think children need talking animals and magic to learn God’s truths or motivate them to read.

Jared said...

Kurt,

-I don't understand: what's wrong with fiction? Didn't our Savior use fiction to great effect in his parables?

-I understand that we disagree about Christmas and I appreciate your emotional entanglement. I hope, though, that you find a way to order your family's practice while refraining from imposing supra-scriptural applications on the rest of your brothers and sisters, or looking down on them because they have different convictions.

-I agree with your comment about the Puritans, but you, in essence, prove my point. You admit that some of their work is bad, thus necessitating discernment on our part. The same applies, more or less stringently, to the rest of the church's history: good and bad. Let's take the good and disregard the bad. If we wait for perfection, we're going to be mighty bored. It's my concern to remind us that our history didn't start 500 years ago. If we look only to the Puritans, it's like only eating the potatoes when a feast is before us. Sure, there's vitamin C in there, but there's a cherry pie on the table, too!

-I don't agree that Lewis had a syncretized belief system. Rather, he, more than most men and women of the 20th century, comprehended the vast canon of human literature and knowledge and claimed it all for Jesus Christ. He believed and practiced that all truth is God's truth, that there are pieces of other religions that steal from Christianity and we should steal them back. (Caveat: This isn't to say, though, that I agree with him theologically, 100%.)

-...talking animals and magic...like talking donkeys and mediums? (Num. 22 & 1 Sam. 28)

Anyway, the question isn't one of "need". If it was only need driving us, we could motivate our kids with whips and beatings. The question is one of delighting in art; just as a good sculpture is fiction ("that's not the real David, y'know") but yet delightful, so good literature doesn't have to be true or even firmly based in our scientific/testable reality to delight us.

Thanks for your iron-sharpening thoughts!

Kurt said...

Jared,

You have some interesting points. I’ll try to respond.

Fiction: I don’t believe any of Christ’s parables contain anything like talking lions or “hobbits” (or other such make-believe creatures). He did just fine without them, wouldn’t you agree? :>)

Christmas: Please don’t misinterpret my conviction about Christmas to include an assessment that I am “looking down on others because they have different convictions.” Just as you do, I only long for the time when Christians everywhere can worship our Lord together in spirit and in truth for His glory.

Puritans: I guess the difference is that I view the Puritans as the “cherry pie” rather than the “potatoes,” even though there is the occasional “cherry pit” or two. :>) To continue your analogy, Catholic writings may be a feast, albeit overrun by ants so that maybe you can salvage only a bite or two.

C.S. Lewis: You said that “he believed and practiced that all truth is God's truth, that there are pieces of other religions that steal from Christianity and we should steal them back.” Oh, are we into stealing now? I think we can do better than that by starting with Scripture rather than the practices of heathens who will always pretty much have some of it right because they are made in the image of God. The problem with the C.S. Lewis approach is that it can be difficult to tell the “good” parts from the “bad” parts in his compromised world, and Christians get confused on whose side they are really on when they try to perform “stolen” practices from other religions.

BTW, celebrating Christmas was never a truth stolen from Christianity, i.e. celebrating Christ’s birth on any periodic or annual basis, in any way, shape, or form in Scripture. Some Christians may have tried to determine the day of His birth in order to celebrate it in the first few centuries A.D. as purported by some Catholic scholar, but Scripture mentions only two birthday celebrations, the birthdays of rulers, each containing an execution – one hanging and one beheading. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the practice of celebrating a ruler’s birthday, would you say? Catholic scholar and some Christians seeking to exercise their supposed Christian “liberty” in the first centuries A.D. versus Scripture? Ah, I think I’ll go with Scripture at this point, unless you can convince me exegetically that we can take pagan practices such as Christmas trees, gift exchange, evergreen decorating, etc. tied in specifically to some date December 25 (not His real birthday,even, but the time of winter solstice), used in worship of superstition and idols, and "Christianize" it by saying we can now celebrate Christ's birth and in this way. The Puritans recognized the problem with Christmas, but got swallowed up by the falling away of the Church and secular society around them. They perserved for two centuries in this country, though! Thankfully, there is a growing movement to fully look into the past and restore this truth, and stop looking like the world. I guess all that I'm saying is let's prayerfully and studiously consider this, and not just reject it out of hand.

Talking donkeys and mediums: I don’t believe that one talking donkey and one medium equates to a Scriptural pattern of methodology for us to teach God’s truth, especially when the medium (1Samuel) passage is one of some controversy. Also, both events really happened, not like in Lewis’ and other authors’ fantastical writings.

But, maybe I am looking at this all wrong. Maybe God was using fantasy. Did those events really happen? Is the Bible made up of fantasies, too, since it sure sounds a lot like fantasy books, using talking donkeys and witches, and all? How can I tell fact from fantasy?

Do you see where such reasoning can take us? And before one would respond, “Well, you should be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction,” think about all the Bible critics who take such incidents as the donkey and the medium as proof that the Bible is a fantastical account, and therefore, we can’t believe it to be true.

I hope you don’t mind, but I have to break off this discussion for now. I have to be about the business of preparing for my new job. Thanks again for all you help and encouragement in this area!

Sir Ryan said...

you know there are perma-links to these blog posts, right?

http://kingsmeadow.com/2006/05/why-i-like-catholic-authors.html