It is fashionable to be a heretic…

Read this from the first pages of G. K. Chesterton’s Heretics and think about how true this is over 100 years after it was written…

Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word “orthodox.” In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. The armies with their cruel security, the kings with their cold faces, the decorous processes of State, the reasonable processes of law–all these like sheep had gone astray. The man was proud of being orthodox, was proud of being right. If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man; he was a church. He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung. All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, “I suppose I am very heretical,” and looks round for applause. The word “heresy” not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word “orthodoxy” not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing, and one thing only. It means that people care less whether they are philosophically right. For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confesses himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox.

"'I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.'"

Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land (1 Kings 17:1-7).

Like a scene from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, birds fly provisions to a man on a dangerous mission. But what we have in Scripture is no fairy tale, unless we take Chesterton’s definition (“Fairyland,” he said, “is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth…”.) which, like much of Chesterton’s writing, I don’t understand and, yet, know it is right…

Ravens, by God’s command, delivered provisions to Elijah the prophet. King Ahab was deepening Israel’s idolatry (1 Kings 16:31-34), so Elijah’s first work was to announce God’s punishment for that wickedness: “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” After speaking God’s Word to King Ahab, God tells Elijah to hide himself. Twice each day while he is exiled to the banks of the brook Cherith, the ravens—an unclean beast (Lev. 11:13-19)—arrived with meat and bread for the exiled prophet.

As you worked through your Scripture reading, did this wonderful demonstration of the power and kindness of God stand out to you? Perhaps because of magnitude of the works of Elijah (raising the widow’s son from the dead; mocking, dominating, and finally killing the prophets of Baal) that follow, we overlook the miracle of the ravens. Or perhaps we are conditioned to be dismissive of Scripture’s miracles. Let this one sink in…

I imagine Elijah laughing with joy the first time these skittish, awkward black birds landed close by and hopped toward him with beaks full of fresh bread and cooked meat. He’d never experienced anything like this, and he probably got all mixed up and thanked the birds for their delivery. Thanksgivings probably dribbled out of the sides of his mouth as he laughed and chewed and swallowed and sang. What a powerful confirmation of God’s fatherly care!

How many lessons can we learn from such a miracle? Well, here are a number from Matthew Henry, who has no trouble giving attention to this overlooked passage… Continue reading

"Honey, we're changing our name to Dylan. Actually, you better pick…"

People do not know what they are doing; because they do not know what they are undoing. – from Chesterton’s The Thing

Just stumbled upon this article by the Oxford and Princeton ethicist formerly known as William Crouch. He’s formerly known as Crouch because he and his fiancée have determined to both change their surnames when they are married. His facile mind has reasoned thus:

As with so many gender-biased traditions, this one has pretty disturbing roots. The legal concept of coverture came from England and caught on in 19th century America: the idea was that a woman, upon marriage, becomes the property of her husband. She had no right to vote or take out a bank account because she could rely on her owner to do that for her. And, of course, she couldn’t be raped by her husband—because she was essentially her husband’s property, and he was free to do with her what he wished.

We’ve made progress on these issues (though some remarkably late). But the tradition of taking the man’s name remains and, given its background, it seems to me it’s simply bad taste to carry on with it, in the same way that it would be bad taste to put on a minstrel show, no matter how pure the intentions.

You might say that we need some rule, and that taking the man’s name is as good as any other. But is this true? Why not go with whichever name sounds better? Or which name is associated with the coolest people? (MacAskill clearly beats my birth surname “Crouch” on both counts, having a better ring and being the name of both Giant MacAskill—a forebear of my fiancée’s who has a claim to be the world’s strongest ever man—and Danny MacAskill, a trial-biking legend who, also being descended from Giant MacAskill, must be a very distant cousin.)  Or any other choice made by both parties.

Crouch has added his voice to a growing post-Christian chorus whose understanding is completely ignorant of God’s Word. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Christian capital that has steadied the ethics of our nation for some time is running out. The radical egalitarian agenda is incapable of recognizing, honoring, and rejoicing in authority. The suggestion that a woman take her husband’s name as a sign of his authority is rejected as a relic from a dark, oppressive, unenlightened age. Cranmer’s old vows that the wife “love, honor, and obey” are laughable and insufferable to Crouch and his fiancée.

The reason a woman takes a man’s name is not that she becomes his property but that she gives testimony to her husband’s God-given authority and delights herself in the comfort and protection that follow therefrom. As I just said, such authority/hierarchy/patriarchy is hated today. Evangelicals hate what God’s Word says about men and women and marriage (for example, check out the website of Christians for Biblical Equality), and they save face by mocking Scripture’s teaching. And so today’s male is expected to limp wrist it from the wedding altar on, which he’s only happy to do because he’s thoroughly healed from his neutering.

Scripture teaches us that authority is good. The problem today is we’ve believed the lie taught to us…that authority is bad and only and ever used for oppression. Such is the case when authority is dislodged from Scripture. When there is no governor on authority, in the form of all men everywhere submitting to their Creator, then we do indeed get oppression. Yet, as we submit ourselves to God’s ethics, authority is blessing and comfort and assurance and a cozy blanket with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night.

The woman takes her husband’s name in order to show respect to her man (Eph. 5:33). The woman takes her husband’s name in order to announce to the world she has a protector and a lover (Eph. 5:25-27). The woman takes her husband’s name as a sign of her deep commitment to her husband, following Eve’s lead (after reading Gen. 2:18, read the Holy Spirit’s explanation in 1 Cor. 11:8-9). The woman takes her husband’s name in order to honor God’s Word (Titus 2:5), to witness to the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church (Eph. 5:22-33), and to thumb her nose at the world’s hatred of femininity (Gen. 2:23).

Or, you could listen to the sage advice of our clear-thinking ethicists and go with whichever name is associated with the coolest people… Honey, we’re changing our surname to Dylan.

Some good $0.99 ebooks on Amazon…

…although many of the below can be had for free in html or pdf format at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, an excellent resource.

Augustine: City of God and Christian Doctrine

Baxter: The Reformed Pastor

Baxter: Saints’ Everlasting Rest

Berkhof: Summary of Christian Doctrine

Chesterton: The Complete Father Brown Mysteries Collection

Chesterton: Orthodoxy (annotated)

Edwards: The Freedom of the Will

Edwards: The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Edwards: Religious Affections

Hodge: Systematic Theology Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3

Kuyper: Lectures on Calvinism

Lewis: The Abolition of Man

Luther: Bondage of the Will

Machen: Christianity and Liberalism

Owen: Sermons

Rutherford: Lex Rex

Ryle: Holiness

Spurgeon: The Beatitudes

Warfield: Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy

Watson: Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Watson: The Doctrine of Repentance

Watson: The Godly Man’s Picture

Good books for nothing…

51x+ZB+3PLL._SL160_Looking around on the Amazon website for free stuff this morning, came across these free Kindle books. Not the best editions of these works out there…but at least you’ll have the text. If you don’t have a Kindle machine, you can use the Kindle app on many other devices…

Augustine: Confessions

Bunyan: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Bunyan: The Works of John Bunyan

Chesterton: What’s Wrong with the World?

Chesterton: Orthodoxy

Edwards: Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards

Fox’s Book of Martyrs

Josephus: The Wars of the Jews; or the History of the Destruction of Jerusalem

Knox: First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

Luther: Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther

Milton: Paradise Lost

Ryle: Practical Religion Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians

Ryle: Sketch of the Life and Labors of George Whitefield


Odd Christmas truths…

God has limited what He has told us. There are “secret things” and “revealed things,” as Deuteronomy 29:29 teaches us. At points that resist being fully reasoned out, that appear impossible or contradictory, Christians safely, happily, comfortably, and faithfully embrace a paradox. G. K. Chesterton, the English author and Christian apologist, wrote about that embrace in his book Orthodoxy:

THE real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. I give one coarse instance of what I mean. Suppose some mathematical creature from the moon were to reckon up the human body; he would at once see that the essential thing about it was that it was duplicate. A man is two men, he on the right exactly resembling him on the left. Having noted that there was an arm on the right and one on the left, a leg on the right and one on the left, he might go further and still find on each side the same number of fingers, the same number of toes, twin eyes, twin ears, twin nostrils, and even twin lobes of the brain. At last he would take it as a law; and then, where he found a heart on one side, would deduce that there was another heart on the other. And just then, where he most felt he was right, he would be wrong.

It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything. It seems a sort of secret treason in the universe. An apple or an orange is round enough to get itself called round, and yet is not round after all. The earth itself is shaped like an orange in order to lure some simple astronomer into calling it a globe. A blade of grass is called after the blade of a sword, because it comes to a point; but it doesn’t. Everywhere in things there is this element of the quiet and incalculable. It escapes the rationalists, but it never escapes till the last moment. From the grand curve of our earth it could easily be inferred that every inch of it was thus curved. It would seem rational that as a man has a brain on both sides, he should have a heart on both sides. Yet scientific men are still organizing expeditions to find the North Pole, because they are so fond of flat country. Scientific men are also still organizing expeditions to find a man’s heart; and when they try to find it, they generally get on the wrong side of him.

Now, actual insight or inspiration is best tested by whether it guesses these hidden malformations or surprises. If our mathematician from the moon saw the two arms and the two ears, he might deduce the two shoulder-blades and the two halves of the brain. But if he guessed that the man’s heart was in the right place, then I should call him something more than a mathematician. Now, this is exactly the claim which I have since come to propound for Christianity. Not merely that it deduces logical truths, but that when it suddenly becomes illogical, it has found, so to speak, an illogical truth. It not only goes right about things, but it goes wrong (if one may say so) exactly where the things go wrong. Its plan suits the secret irregularities, and expects the unexpected. It is simple about the simple truth; but it is stubborn about the subtle truth. It will admit that a man has two hands, it will not admit (though all the Modernists wail to it) the obvious deduction that he has two hearts. It is my only purpose in this chapter to point this out; to show that whenever we feel there is something odd in Christian theology, we shall generally find that there is something odd in the truth.

We are told some stark truths about Jesus in Scripture. They are simple on the surface but require faith: Jesus said, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30) and in Colossians 2:9 we learn that in Jesus “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” These truths are odd in Chesterton’s sense; odd in that they are difficult alone and paradoxical when combined. And we hold tenaciously to that odd turn. To abandon that odd turn is to be a heretic, to be damned. It would be, as Chesterton put it, to argue for a two-hearted man.

There is a necessary place to theorize and systematize the deep theology of the Trinity and Christ’s hypostatic union. But the heretic hates the paradox and is compelled to systematize a mystery. If we don’t revel in these truths—God with us; the fullness of Deity in bodily form; fully God, fully Man; Three in One—our adult-faith will refuse anything which must be received like a child (Mark 10:15).

Remember how Scripture describes Mary after the angel tells her what is going to happen to her. Yes, she wants some tangibles. It seems she wants some information on the mechanics of what is going to happen to her, so she asks for some explanation of how she is going to get pregnant, seeing that she is a virgin. The angel doesn’t give her much of an explanation, only enough. He says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). At the end of it all, what does it say that Mary did? It says, “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

May we, like Jesus’ mother, treasure what we don’t fully comprehend, ponder truth with a childlike faith, and ecstatically enjoy these odd turns.

Chesterton on Sex Distinctions

Written 102 years ago. How much more vehement would he be today as we push young women to our front lines

Boys play football, why shouldn’t girls play football; boy have school-colors, why shouldn’t girls have school-colors; boys go in hundreds to day-schools, why shouldn’t girls go in hundreds to day-schools; boys go to Oxford, why shouldn’t girls go to Oxford–in short, boys grow mustaches, why shouldn’t girls grow mustaches–that is about their notion of a new idea. There is no brain-work in the thing at all; no root query of what sex is, of whether it alters this or that, and why, any more than there is any imaginative grip of the humor and heart of the populace in the popular education. There is nothing but plodding, elaborate, elephantine imitation. And just as in the case of elementary teaching, the cases are of a cold and reckless inappropriateness. Even a savage could see that bodily things, at least, which are good for a man are very likely to be bad for a woman. Yet there is no boy’s game, however brutal, which these mild lunatics have not promoted among girls.

-From Chesterton’s What’s Wrong With The World