Touchstone's Editors on news & events of the day. with Patrick Henry Reardon Order our publications... Speakers bureau, Chicago Lecture Series, and more... Browse back issues... All the information you need

E-mail your comments

(Please indicate if your comments may be published with or without your name.)


Friday, April 23


A Canadian reader sends responses to two recent items:

Two of your predicted reactions to Gibson's Passion film have been reported as happening.

WorldNet and Southern Baptist Press report on Moslems becoming interested in Christianity as a result of seeing the film:

-- and
-- reports (much less credibly in my opinion) the film stirring up additional anti-semitism: The Passion

Reading the latter report one has to wonder how the people who supposedly are reacting with anger at the Jews could possibly have become any more anti-semitic than they already were when they entered the theater. Consider this sentence, written apparently without irony: "Yet now, thanks at least in part to Gibson, the ancient calumny that Jews are Christ killers is gaining currency even among people who don't believe that Christ was killed. " Somehow I find it hard to blame Gibson for the reactions of people whose ability to think logically is so far gone.
And responding to today's "Drunk without leisure":

While your reader Jeff Stout has a point about college students and leisure, I believe the main reason for binge drinking on campus is much simpler than an abstract failure to comprehend life's rhythms. College undergrads in the US do not drink in pubs or bars for the very simple reason that almost all of them are below the legal drinking age. So instead, most drinking takes place in student dorm rooms, using alcohol bought in bulk ahead of time by a cooperative older friend.

Now which environment do you think is more conducive to an 18 year old's learning how to drink responsibly: drinking in a pub run by a grownup bartender and having to pay for each drink, or sitting in a dorm room with a bunch of other 18-20 year olds with a case of beer or several large bottles of hard liquor?

The laws for minimum drinking age should either be strictly enforced on college campuses, or they should be repealed. Otherwise the problem will continue.

3:45 PM


Kevin Burt responds to Tuesday's Jesus is Cool:

You are quite right, as usual. Mr. Richards would not wear a t-shirt casting humor on feminists or homosexual activists because they form part of a popular pantheon of "suffering heroes." People respect those who they believe suffer for good causes too much to cast light on their actions.

But, as you and others have noted, Jesus is no longer the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. The crucifixion isn't "in," but the resurrection is "cool." Further, traditional moral Christianity is also no longer "in," and thus Jesus is more useful as a convert to the surf shop than as an authoritative teacher who left behind . . . gasp . . . an authoritative Church.

My wife and I encountered a similar situation in our local mall the other night. As we walked past Victoria's (not so) Secret, a saleswoman (lady?) asked us if we'd be interested in a sale item. We both politely said, no, but my wife confided she wished she could say more without being overly pious or rude.

I am still trying to control my displeasure over their recent advertisements using angel wings on their "models" to sell their products. Angel wings on semi-nudes in suggestive poses is apparently a good thing (never mind those ignorant Christians or Jews who might be offended by such a lascivious use of their sacred beliefs). I am still waiting for their designers to hang posters of semi-nudes wearing hijab scarves. Somehow, I think I'll be waiting a long time.

Keep up the good writing. I love Touchstone, and so do all my friends who get subscriptions for Christmas or birthdays!
I'm sure someone has written about this, but the popular instinct for making angels feminine -- usually rather simperingly so -- can't be good. Instead of being messengers of the Almighty, who appear with something of his authority, majesty, and power, they are pretty and delicate and soft. Which suggests that their creators think that God is pretty and delicate and soft. They shall be surprised.

A few days ago I watched a documentary on the Japanese style of animation called anime, and was struck by how adolescent was the typical way of portraying women. Soft but buxom with big doe eyes describes it, and this applied even to the martial arts expert heroines: in other words, sexually alluring but not threatening. I've just realized how much the popular depiction of angels resembles the anime girls.

If you will pardon an advertisement, I would commend to you Dr. Burt's practice of giving subscriptions as presents. They're not expensive and the present comes ten times a year, and you'll be doing the recipients a favor.

11:42 AM


Four readers responded to my request yesterday for information on why Isaac Asimov peopled his imaginative universe only with people, when the average science fiction writer peopled it with many different creatures. It’s rather nice to get an idea of the range of our readers’ interest and knowledge. Deacon Michael Harmon writes:

I must say I think I have read every word of science fiction Isaac Asimov ever wrote (along with the same for Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein) and I don't recall too many aliens. Asimov was the quintessential atheistic humanist (despite writing a comprehensive guide to the Bible) and once wrote a science essay in which he deplored the "cosmic coincidence" that the moon, as viewed from Earth, was exactly the same apparent size as the sun, which therefore gave rise to all sorts of "superstitions" about a divine hand guiding eclipses, which devolved (not evolved) into more organized monotheisms.

His other major series beyond the Foundation Trilogy (not including his Lucky Starr series of juveniles) was the "I, Robot," series, from whence came Robin Williams' ill-watched film, "Millennium Man." In my less-than-expert opinion, Asimov decided early on that the proper study of mankind was man and used his galactic empires and robots to provide mirrors to hold up to people's lives and explore our inner space by means of outer space.

The "robot as mirror to man" image was replayed in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series by Data, an android clearly inspired by Asimov's R. (for Robot) Daneel Olivaw, who was a crime-busting detective who gave his human partner fits. Data even had an Asimovian "positronic brain."

It may well be that Asimov was too focused on mankind to wonder too much about alien species. Perhaps he, too, saw them as God-substitutes, and he would have had no time for that sort of nonsense.

By the way, in Arthur C. Clarke's ouvre, aliens are often wise, incredibly advanced and incomprehensible -- "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Rendezvous with Rama," and all that -- and Robert Heinlein saw them regularly as aggressors from outer space to be fought off for freedom's sake ("The Puppet Masters," "Starship Troopers," etc.), although his Martian Old Ones in "Red Planet" and "Stranger in a Strange Land" were powerful and not ill-inclined, just aloof from human concerns.
Bob Mulle writes:

Thank you for posting my thoughts in regard to this interesting topic. In response to your question, why did Asimov populate his universe this way? I am certainly the last person to have any answer. I would observe that the contrast between Asimov and Sagan is quite interesting and may on reflection shed some light on Mr. KLoempken's astute reference to Chesterton and the need for unbelievers to find a replacement for God.

It strikes me that while both men were modernists and science fictionwriters of some renown, Asimov was much more the materialist than Saga, at least at first. In the early Foundation and Robot books, there is not a hint of religiosity or spirituality in any way. In fact, in the original Foundation book, Foundation, he refers to a form of future religion then popular in the dying empire, a belief in a "Galactic Spirit". He goes on to kill off this faith in short order.

At the same time, Asimov continually makes reference to man standing alone in the universe. He references ancient beginnings on Earth and the eventual spread and colonization of mankind throughout the galaxy. However, to the best of my recollection, he never gives this fact any sort of spiritual significance.

Toward the end of his life, Asimov wrote several new Foundation and Robot books in an effort to finish the series and complete his vision of the future. Here one does see some evidence of a creeping mysticism. He creates a planet called Gaia, and invests it with some sort of psychic power that is tied in the a human collectivist society. He hints at the end that this may be man's ultimate destiny, to create a unified mental collective throughout the galaxy. Still no god and no real faith in anything but science and scientism.

In contrast, Sagan, in my humble opinion, was always some sort of mystic. His billions and billions of worlds, some populated with alien life, was meant to inspire us, delight us, and perhaps even inform us, but never really taught us anything of lasting truth. In the end, both of these brilliant atheists missed the point. A universe without God, no matter how bright and beautiful, is a cold and lonely place indeed.
And Steve Cavanaugh writes:

Near the conclusion of the Foundation/Robot Saga, Daneel Olivaw (the long-lived robot) reveals that the reason there was very little life in the universe except for Earth (there was some, but of very primitive types) is that only on Earth did the conditions exist for evolution that resulted in the human race . . . basically, the large amount of radioactive material in the Earth's crust stimulated mutations, which led to the multiplicity of life.

And so Man colonized the universe (in fact, only those men who were imperfect, subject to disease, etc., as the perfect ones -- the "Spacers" -- ended up with sterile civilizations that fell into ruin), bringing it the pleasures and delights of literature, technology and tobacco.

One of Asimov's other big works (among the many hundreds he penned) is his Biblical is a historical look at the Scriptures, often drawing on the work of the Anchor Bible. While it is not a believer's work, nor is it hostile (although I suppose many fundamentalists might think it so). I've often used it in conjunction with other commentaries when trying to understand the historical and cultural context of Scriptural passages.
And finally, from Marlon Clark:

Asimov's alien free Future History was influenced by John Campbell, the editor of Astounding Magazine (now Analog). Campbell always insisted that humans must be better than aliens, and this irritated Asimov. To avoid writing stories where the humans always beat the aliens, Asimov decided not to have any aliens. So the Robot and Foundation stories had no aliens.

I believe I read this in 'In memory yet green', Part I of Asimov's autobiography. I don't have an exact quotation for it.

Years later, when Asimov was famous enough to write anything he wanted (and Campbell was dead anyway), Asimov was still stuck with a galaxy spanning empire with no aliens. So in the later Foundation books, he figures backwards and invents a reason for no aliens. I don't recall what it was...something about the Galaxy as Gaia and Gaia not wanting aliens and humans killing each other off. That's just a guess though.

10:15 AM


In response to yesterday’s “Student Drinking” (next item) Jeff Stout offers an insight I had not seen at all:

I read with sadness today your posting on student drinking on college campuses. As a junior attending a private university in Colorado, I have to confirm your report, but might add the following insight:

For the most part, undergraduates in the US have no understanding of leisure, and rhythm. In the fall term of this past year I studied in Ireland and was struck by the difference in how students treated alcohol and socialization. Part of the issue is drinking age, although, the deeper issue is the basic structure of society. Every club meeting I attended while in Ireland ended up a the school’s pub! It was part of the unspoken rule that after working people would let down (in moderation) in the pub.

While studying in Cork life took on a certain rhythm, there was a time for prayer, work, studying, cooking. Play and drink had its place, and it was kept in its place. Now home, my life has lost most resemblance of rhythm. I have had to work hard to manage my time so that prayer, leisure, work and play resemble balance. Most students don’t work to manage their time, and the atmosphere on my campus is continually frenzied.

Thus, when students let down or have fun they do so over 12 drinks. The moment of leisure is so fleeting that they think they have to go all out or they won’t have a good time. Having a good time in moderation is not understood, because the memory of this good time needs to hold them until their next chance encounter with leisure.

Life used to be structured by prayer, the church bells had a specific purpose. Monastics understand that structure is vital to free the soul. Now, and especially on college campuses with the help of coffee, 24hr libraries, and drugs and alcohol, life has no basic structure. We work all the time and play harder than we should, all balance is left behind, and the rhythm of life is lost.
And Trudy Elmore writes:
The stats cited in this article do not surprise me either. At one particular college in eastern PA where my husband used to work, it was not unusual to find father’s carrying several cases of beer to their student’s dorm room on move-in day. Logically, this had to have happened right under the RA’s noses. While walking across the campus, it was not unusual to see pyramids of beer cans stacked in open windows, or dorm windows propped open with empty whiskey or vodka bottles. The last time I checked, the drinking age in PA was 21, so let’s just talk about the illegality of this as well! Not to mention the immorality.

At this same college it was also not unusual for the administration to receive a telephone call from a parent demanding that maintenance clean their child’s car off and dig it out of its parking space following a big snow storm.

Perhaps the expectation of a hedonistic experience was taught to be expected by the parents. Kids got what they demanded from indulgent parents, who also got what they wanted, via the almighty buck. Of course kids expect no less at college. And the indulgent parents want their “baby” to have the same amount of fun they did while at college, in essence reliving their past through their child.

No wonder so many people are on Zoloft or spending thousands of dollars on a psychologist’s couch. Life isn’t about “having fun.” Life is hard and it jumps up and smacks you in the face rather quickly when you’re on your own. Get used to it. This doesn’t mean that life is nothing but doldrums and gray days but to start to look for the joy in the midst of the difficult . . . the silver in the cloud . . . God’s blessing and love in the suffering.

10:13 AM

Thursday, April 22


A depressing statistic from the latest issue of Campus Ministry Update, published by the Ivy Jungle Network:

* College Drinking: According to a survey of 3,000 California college students, male drinkers consume 12 or more drinks 20% of the time that they drink. (Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks at one time for a male, 3 or more for a female). The survey conducted by the Prevention Research Center showed college freshman drinking most heavily and more paryting occurring at the beginning of the school year, although Spring Break is an exception. A 1998 Journal of American College Health indicated that male spring break partiers consumed an average of 18 alcoholic beverages a day; women 10. The statistics are thought to have remained accurate. (CPYU e-update #56 March 31, 2004)
This doesn't suprise me, but for a perhaps unexpected reason. Speaking as the father of a high school senior and therefore one who has read vast amounts of college propaganda, sorry, marketing materials, I must say that even serious private colleges market themselves as not only institutions of learning but as places to have a really, really good time. If even the schools think of themselves as hedonisic enterprises, children that age will naturally turn to chemical aid to achieve the required level of hedonistic release as quickly as possible.

3:42 PM


We almost never post whole articles from other sources, but the following from Toward Tradition was so good I thought I would do so in this case, as they allow "free and unrestricted use."

Just Wait Till the Muslims See It

by Rabbi Daniel Lapin
President, Toward Tradition: The American Alliance for Jews and Christians

With perhaps one in five Americans already having seen it, The Passion continues to rack up attendance records. Would you like to hear an amazing statistic? In spite of dire warnings by some Jewish groups, no American Jews wending their way homewards from the synagogue have been set upon by crucifix-wielding Christians intent on wreaking revenge for the death of Jesus.

I am not being sarcastic. This truly is an amazing statistic. According to Boston police reports, the Oliver Stone-Quentin Tarantino 1994 Natural Born Killers inspired several imitation murders including a firefighter killed by a man who claimed to be fascinated by the film.

Nathaniel White claimed that Robocop showed him how to kill five women and one girl in a year-long murder spree. Four young gunmen embarked on a killing spree, murdering four after watching the TV movie Helter Skelter, a film about the Manson murders. The annals of American crime are filled with instances of the unbalanced and the demented acting out silver screen slashing extravaganzas.

Back in February, when The Passion was released, would anyone have been willing to guarantee that out of millions of theater-goers, not one lunatic would emerge with mayhem on his mind? I would have offered no such guarantee. Yet, nothing of the sort happened. What did happen is that several criminals were inspired to confess their crimes and submit to trial and incarceration after experiencing The Passion.

Even the most hostile critic must concede that just as depraved films stimulate degenerate imitation, so do uplifting films stimulate noble behavior. That is certainly what has been happening with The Passion. Wouldn't it be uplifting and even noble were the Jewish groups who earlier had insulted The Passion, its maker, the Gospels that inspired it, and indeed all Christians, now to issue an apology?

Wouldn't it be refreshing if those who earlier warned of anti-Jewish violence because "Gibson is spouting classic anti-Semitism" would now say contritely, "We were just plain wrong?" How about a "We're sorry" from those who threatened, "Mel Gibson's mouth has turned into a lethal weapon." Instead, what they are now saying is, "Just wait till those Muslims see The Passion."

What exactly can we expect now that a few Moslem communities are screening the film? It seems to me that we can anticipate only three possible outcomes.

Possible outcome number one is that Moslem viewers decry the movie for at least two of its premises that flatly contradict Koranic doctrine. The first is that Jesus was crucified. According to the Koran, Jesus was merely a prophet and was certainly never crucified neither did he rise from the grave. The second is the movie's stubborn depiction of a temple in Jerusalem. Islamic propaganda vehemently denies that any Jewish presence ever existed upon the Temple Mount. It is chiefly for these reasons that the movie is not gaining wide exposure among the world's Moslems. Those that do see it are quite likely to denounce it as sheer fabrication.

Possible outcome number two is that Moslem viewers react to The Passion by waving their arms, shooting their Kalashnikovs into the air and yelling, "Yes! We knew it! Those Jews are just no good. Did you see this? They are even implicated in the death of Jesus." Presumably the consequence of this discovery would be that Moslem audiences then shake their heads sadly and say, "Okay, that's it! No more mister nice guy!" Does anyone seriously suggest that Moslems in the Middle East were just about to denounce homicide bombings until they saw The Passion? Or would all those studious Islamic poets and software architects see the movie, abandon their work and sally into the streets of Marseilles and Islamabad to attack Jews? How could Mel Gibson's movie possibly add to the already frenzied Islamic anti-Semitism?

Finally, we must confront possible outcome number three. Moslems experience The Passion, find it profoundly moving, and in large numbers convert to Christianity. Many would consider this outcome to be rather improbable but they could be the same people who were also wrong in their predictions of how The Passion would impact American audiences. In any event Moslem authorities are not quite as sanguine which is precisely why so few are allowing The Passion into their societies in the first place.

And, should one billion Moslems convert to Christianity, does anyone really believe that the world be a worse place?

3:32 PM


Yesterday’s “Looking for friends in the universe” spurred several interesting responses. First, from Mark Kloempken:

An element of the Gospel is that God exists apart from this world and enters into the world to save us (an alien salvation). The Word provides a view apart from ourselves (an alien perspective). It is the mirror into which we look to understand what we in fact look like. It is the salvation from outside of our world to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

We know that we need an alien understanding (a perspective that exists apart from us), an alien salvation (a salvation that exists apart from us, for we know we cannot save ourselves), an alien righteousness (a righteousness that exists apart from us, for all of our actions are sinful). We reject God’s understanding and God’s salvation because we would be as god. And yet this need abides in us at the deepest level.

And so, Satan, to deflect us from the real sets up the counterfeit, or perhaps we do this to ourselves. We create this belief in a group that exists apart from us, alien beings or supernatural guides, who will break into our world to save us because we know that we require a salvation apart from ourselves. History demonstrates our need. Our lives demonstrate our need.

Because we will not look to God, we create idols. We are desperate for a word, for an answer, a wisdom apart from ourselves, because it fills our need at the deepest level; but we reject God and the true answer because we would be as God, knowing good from evil. And hence this whole fascination with Star Trek, Star Wars, alien encounters and the like.
Craig Galer writes:

Several years ago, a non-Christian friend "challenged" me to read Contact by Carl Sagan. I think that he thought I would have a hard time defending my faith against Sagan's theme, but the effect was rather the opposite. I found myself marvelling that Sagan, who never tried to hide his contempt for religious belief, wrote a book about aliens who were utterly god-like. They were all-wise and super-moral, and they were coming to us, to teach us to be more like them. I was amazed that Carl Sagan, who could not abide the idea of God, could easily conceive of an alien race who were, for all practical purposes, an awful lot like gods.

Chesterton said somewhere (I can't, for the life of me, recall where) that when people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing, they'll believe in anything.
Quoting something from the "Looking for friends," Christian LeBlanc writes:

"That a universe so vast should exist with only one race on one world to appreciate it seems to annoy them greatly."

I look at the scale of the universe and our puny place in it, and see that what makes us so special in all that vastness is our souls, which have no physical dimension. Material existence, absent souls, is without importance.
And finally, from Robert Mulle:

In fact, how do we know that we are not at the beginning? Why do we assume that we are near the end of time; that the universe is old, and, as you mentioned in an earlier blog, man having come in near the climax would only be inferior to any other life form, should such ever be found?

Perhaps Our Lord has put us here as a seed to fertilize the cosmos for Him. To do whatever it is that we do to please Him for as far as any eye can see.

It is interesting that the great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in his Foundation and Robot series never introduced extraterrestrial life. Man was alone in the galaxy, and our future history, like that of this country in the nineteenth century, was one of exploration, conflict, competition and conquest.

Whatever purpose God has in creating and perpetuating the universe will be known to us one day. C. S. Lewis saw one of our tasks in the after-life as missionaries and ambassadors to other worlds. I like that idea. Perhaps there is other life in the galaxies, and it is there for our service to Him; not as slaves, not as conquerors, but as apostles and martyrs. Just as we are called to be here.
I read Asimov in my youth but didn't remember this and would like to know why he chose to people his imaginative universe this way and not in the usual one. Does any reader know?

3:28 PM

Wednesday, April 21


Stuart Buck writes in response to yesterday’s “Old Cliches”:

Ever since I read it in the original (sometime during college in the early 1990s), I’ve loved G.K. Chesterton’s quote on that subject:

“Saying that life on earth came from another planet is like saying that a ghost in a graveyard must have come from some other graveyard. It doesn’t explain anything.”

Illustrated London News, May 3, 1924

You can find this quote here.
I was thinking this morning about the people who seem very much to want to find life on other planets and indeed to have an essentially religious faith in their existence. I wonder if the secularists among them, having removed God from the cosmos, simply don’t like the idea of man being alone in the universe.

Aliens seem to me a very poor substitute for God, but if they won’t have God, what other possible friend from outside this world could they have, but creatures from other planets? The Christian would say that we are made to look for a Friend outside — St. Augustine’s “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee” is one of the ways this has been said — and if we won’t look for a Friend we will look for friends to take his place.

That seems to be true of some secularists, anyway. At any rate, they and their peers seem to think that intelligent life must exist somewhere in the universe, simply as a matter of the odds. “Gosh, you know, space is really big, all those billions of stars, there must be intelligent life somewhere else.” Some of them feel that the idea that all this could have been created solely for man is just absurd. That a universe so vast should exist with only one race on one world to appreciate it seems to annoy them greatly.

The Christian, on the other hand, can be perfectly agnostic about the existence of other intelligent creatures, as C. S. Lewis was (I don’t have the reference to hand). But it doesn’t bother him in the least to think that we are the only creatures with minds and souls in the universe, that man has no peers anywhere. For at least two reasons.

First, the Christian knows that a God who would take his form and die for him after he’d told Him to get lost would do anything for him. He can imagine the Father saying, “Oh, stars, they’ll love stars. They’ll make up stories about them. The children will love looking at the night sky and finding shapes in the stars. And think what their poets will do with the stars, especially that Dante. And when they get around to inventing astronomy, how much fun they’ll have finding out about the universe. Let’s put in lots of stars they won’t see till the middle of the 20th century. And let’s give them some puzzles to work out, like black holes and quasars.”

That is the sort of universe in which the Christian lives. It is the sort of universe in which even the heavens is a present, the stars like packages under the Christmas tree. It is the sort of universe in which a boy standing in his yard in some dreary American suburb can look up at the Big Dipper and say with delight, “What? For me?”, in which a girl tending her family’s sheep in a field in Africa can look up at the North Star and say, “Thanks!”

Second, the Christian knows that God loves creating. We are not surprised that he might make billions of stars because he wanted to make billions of stars, because making billions of stars gave him great joy (if we can speak so of God). We are not surprised that he might make billions of stars of which we will never know, because he did not make them for us.

That is what creators do. Almost every museum in the world seems to have one of Monet’s paintings of lilies. If a man loved painting lilies, how much more would God love making them? And God has a lot more time, and a more energy, and much better resources, than Monet. G. K. Chesterton explained this in a wonderful passage from “The Ethics of Elfland,” the fourth chapter of his great book (great great great book) Orthodoxy:

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.

This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstacy of his life would have the stillness of death.

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose.

It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.
The Christian lives in a much more cheerful world than the secularist. He has no need to look for friends scattered about the universe, to quiet his feeling of being alone in the cosmos, though if human life is, as the secularist must believe, merely the result of a vast number of random mutations, I don’t see what comfort it is to know that elsewhere in the universe are creatures who are also the results of a vast number of random mutations.

The Christian knows that he is not alone in the cosmos, that he has a Friend and a Father, that everything he sees may have been put there just for him.

11:42 AM

Tuesday, April 20


A reader of my blog yesterday writes:

"In regards to your blog "Choice Churches and Handicaps" I also saw the General Synod for the United Church of Christ listed in the co-sponsor's section of the Organizer's website for that march against unborn children as well as the three other denominations mentioned."
Honestly, I assumed the UCC would be in that list, but I must have scrolled through it too quickly and didn't find them when I first looked. But, true to form, the UCC was there all along.

I have wondered if some of these so-called church leaders have ever heard of an abortion they would want to forbid (how about sex selection abortions?).

I have also often wondered what would happen if some third party not affiliated with a church offered Planned Parenthood a free service in which all of PP's "clients" (well, okay, only the ones who happen to be born) would be given full information about the "fetus," its stages of development, its ability to feel pain, ultrasound pictures, and even the documented side-effects of abortion on the women who abort -- PP would provide all of this information so that women would be able to make the most informed "choice" possible. No strings attached. Let's add one more bit of information: give the mothers full information about giving their children up for adoption.

I said I wonder what would happen if all of the above were true. I lied. I really don't wonder at all what Planned Parenthood would do. I think they would not hestitate to decline the offer. Even if it was limited to providing clear adoption options.

4:08 PM


Another article from the Tucson Citizen you may find of some minor interest (I found it while looking for the link to the article Phillip Johnson recommended in the next item): Jesus is Cool. It includes the quote, given by a young Episcopal priest:

Richards wears a "Jesus surfs without a board" shirt from Urban Outfitters, where you can also find a Jesus action figure.

"If Jesus is so reverent that we can't laugh about him, then Jesus isn't in our everyday lives," says Richards, 28.
One can just imagine the Apostles, whose successors an Episcopal minister claims to be, wearing such t-shirts around Jerusalem in the weeks after the Resurrection. One can imagine Perpetua and Felicity ordering one to wear in the arena. One can see crowds of Sudanese Christians standing before army firing squads in such t-shirts. One can . . . oh never mind.

One cannot imagine the young Mr. Richards wearing a similar t-shirt with a comic message about Martin Luther King or any feminist whatsoever, no matter how obscure.

2:04 PM


Our contributing editor Phillip Johnson sends a link to an article from the Tucson Citizen with some interesting quotes: God, the universe, and you. Phil writes:

The opposite side of the much-hyped question "What might discovery of extraterrestrial life do to the status of religion?" is usually ignored. It is:"What may the continued failure to discover extraterrestrial life do to
the status of science?" For that matter, what will Darwinists say if we learn that very primitive life once thrived in water on Mars and never evolved to become more complex?

There are [in the article] delightful quotes, such as that Impey [the subject], a sworn agnostic with a photo in his office of himself meeting the pope, said "science and reason can co-exist."

[I'm glad to know that.]

"But it's possible for something to be so unique it only happens once." [That's what "unique" means.]

Some cliches never change. The discredited "war of religion and science" thesis of Draper and White is recycled, and the director of the Islamic Center assures us that Islam has the matter well in hand, while Protestant and Catholic clergy race to get ahead of the curve.
The subject, a Christopher Impey who has just received a Templeton prize, says:

Human beings are a relatively new species and are brand new to technology. Intelligent life would almost certainly be more advanced than Homo sapiens, Impey said.

"The things we have declared different we have declared lesser," Impey said. "It's extremely unlikely that if we were to discover a civilization or entity that was not from this planet, that they would not be far beyond where we are technologically."
This is the article's closing quote, but it left me wondering "why?" There is no reason to think so, especially if we were the ones to discover them (this "entity").

I wonder if this is an unconscious expression of one of the secularist's eschatalogical hopes: that though Jesus will not descend from the skies, some other savior might. More intelligent people than you would think believe that the question of human origins and the meaning of human life would be answered if we found that we came originally from another planet. As was obvious when I mentioned this to one of our children, who was then nine or ten, this only pushes the question back to another planet, it doesn't in any way answer it. But as I say, a lot of intelligent people think it does.

Which makes me suspect that what they really believe is "Anything but God," no matter how implausible or illogical.

Phil recommends the new book The Privileged Planet.

1:56 PM


For those of you interested in the work of the magazine: two or three times a year we get an annoyed letter from someone who is either canceling or not renewing his subscription and wants to tell us why. Sometimes the letters just seem annoyed or angry and sometimes they drip with self-satisfaction.

The latter tell us — this is an apparently invariable pattern — that we are mean, polemical, reactionary, closed, narrow, etc., by which the writer is saying “I am kind, tolerant, curious, open, generous, etc.” There is something about the tone of the letters that suggests they are written more to let the writer advertise his virtue than to tell us something he thinks we need to know.

The Christian getting such a letter has a problem. It is wise to treat it as if it were a serious letter and ask oneself if the writer might be right. It is easy to become reactionary in a culture that presents so much to which to react. The writer might be right, even if he’s writing for other reasons.

But on the other hand, life is short and the work great, and the work a magazine is called to do precisely that which the compromised will want to denounce as mean, polemical, reactionary, etc., and the time spent taking such a writer seriously is probably wasted. The kind of letter he writes is, after all, an easy letter to write and the sort of letter an opponent of the magazine’s mind would send, it being easier and more satisfying to insult our character than engage our ideas.

We have tried to solve this problem in two ways. Internally, by trying to police ourselves and developing rules for polemical writing, like the Marquess of Queensbury’s rules for boxing (summarized in both cases as: hit hard but fair). And externally, by assembling a diverse editorial board and a wide and diverse group of supporters whose opinion we ask, people whose wisdom we trust but who are far enough outside the work to see it with some objectivity.

Yesterday we got a letter of the first sort, which I pass on for those who interested in such things. Our dissatisfied subscriber wrote:

Today I cancelled my subscription to your magazine. I thought I was subscribing to a "Journal of Mere Christianity." Instead I kept receiving a paean to philosophy and western culture.
I wrote back:

This -- "a paean to philosophy," anyway -- is not a very good summary of the magazine's contents, but never mind that: I'm curious to know where you think Lewis got the mind by which he understood Mere Christianity, but through his training in philosophy and the Western tradition, and what he tried to pass on, if not that mind? And taking Lewis' work as a model of the Mere Christian mind in action, how do you think the varied contents of the magazine differ from the one he might have produced? (I assume, by the way, that by "philosophy" you mean "systematic thought," since we've published only one article in the last several issues that could possibly be considered "philosophy.")

I ask this not in reaction to your letter -- readers canceling subscriptions is a part of any magazine's life -- but in real curiosity about your division of Mere Christianity from philosophy and the Western tradition. It is not something Lewis would have done. You might look at Lewis' "De Descriptione Temporum," the lecture he gave when he took the chair at Cambridge, for his famous description of himself as "Old Western Man."
I must admit that when reading the letter I felt a bit like the editor of Collies Today reading a letter saying “I thought I was subscribing to a magazine about Collies, but instead I kept getting a magazine about dog breeding, grooming, and training.” I would suspect the writer wanted a magazine with lots of pictures of Collies running through the fields and lots of heartwarming stories of Collies rescuing little boys and comforting an old man’s declining years, not a magazine about the details of Collie life — though it is the details the real lover of Collies wants to know about.

Though we borrowed the subtitle from C. S. Lewis, who borrowed it from the Puritan Richard Baxter, we are not a Lewisian magazine in the sense that we ask ourselves “What would Lewis do?” But his is a good example of the mind we have and the mind we try to share with our readers. (Other modern models being Newman, Chesterton, Tolkien, Sayers, and now that I think of it Baxter himself).

One of the main features of that mind is a desire to think clearly in order to act well. We attack bad thinking not just because it is bad but because it leads to bad actions and bad lives and thus to human suffering. And we recognize, as did Lewis, that bad thinking in apparently quite abstract and academic matters, like certain narrow theological questions discussed in a highly technical language, eventually play themselves out in more obviously bad thinking and therefore bad actions etc.

One of the other main features of that mind is a respect for, and indeed a general though judicious submission to, the Western tradition. The Judeo-Greco-Roman-Christian mind as it has developed in works of philosophy, theology, literature, science, and art, and in the derivative enterprises like sociology, tells us much that we need to know. (Orthodox readers will object to much in the Western theological tradition, at least the Augustinian stream.)

Anyway, we try to publish a magazine that brings this mind to bear on the questions Christians should be answering today and the challenges we should be facing, and the mind -- sometimes religious, sometimes secular, but always anti-Christian -- we should be challenging at every point. This is what Mere Christians do. This is what Lewis did.

1:39 PM

Monday, April 19


Faye Short, who leads RENEW Network within the United Methodist Church (a “network for Christian women”) informs us that a “Pro-Choice” rally schedule this coming Sunday (!) (A March for Women’s Lives) that the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church will be participating in the March and has financially supported it.

The website of the organizers of the march against children in the womb gives a long list of cosponsoring organizations, which includes:

Episcopal Church USA
Presbyterian Church USA
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

The support of these churches for abortion is not news. But that they have for some time now been unable to see anything wrong with killing infants in utero may go a long way in explaining the difficulty of the same people (not so much the laity as their church leaders) in making distinctions between men and women. Church leaders supporting such longstanding outrages against the children in the womb are morally handicapped, to say the least. And morally handicapped people should receive special treatment to compensate for their disability, one such treatment being banning them from moral leadership. But they seem to be entrenched.

11:51 AM

Sunday, April 18


Senior editor S. M. Hutchens spoke back in 1996 of the ecumenism of the suffering church and that it just might be that the only way Christians will be again be united will be in facing suffering. I don't know if all of the political details surrounding this story fit into this idea, but I find it worth thinking about.

Ecumenical News International Daily News Service / 14 April 2004

Refugee crisis forces Christians in Nigeria to celebrate Easter in open air
By Obed Minchakpu

Makurdi, Nigeria, 14 April (ENI)--Christians in the capital of Benue state, Makurdi, in central Nigeria were forced to celebrate the Easter Holy Week in the midst of refugees who had occupied church buildings following ethnic violence that displaced over 30
000 people.

Many services were conducted in the open air because the church sanctuaries were filled to overflowing with the displaced people. In many cases, the church services brought together Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, and
Pentecostals who would normally worship separately.

The refugee knows at least some of the steps along the Way of the Cross not encountered (usually) by more affluent Christians such as ourselves. The more Christians adhere to the Way of the Cross, the more they will find themselves traveling together, regardless of their traditions. This is not to discount tradition by any means: the Way of the Cross, remembered in the Lord's Supper, along with the Resurrection, together are the central Tradition, the pillar or cornerstone upon which the Body of believers are made one.

12:43 PM

For previous blogs, click here.

Home - Mere Comments - Daily Reflections - Store - Speakers & Conferences - Archives - Contact Us

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?