The Tree that Grows in Heaven

At the very end of the Bible, the following appears in the description of paradise:

On each side of the river was a Tree of Life which bore twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2, Positive Infinity New Testament)

guaj_sa1.jpgThose who are familiar with the Latin Vulgate translation–which dominated western Christianity for a thousand years–know that the "Tree of Life" is rendered there as the "lignum vitae." In turn many of you who live in South Florida or the Caribbean will recognise this as something that grows in places around you.

The phrase "lignum vitae" appears six times in the Vulgate. The first time takes place in the Garden of Eden: "And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of: the tree of life also in the midst of paradise: and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:9) In addition to the quotation in Revelation cited above, it appears four times in Proverbs, in each case as something to be desired: "The fruit of the just man is a tree of life: and he that gaineth souls is wise." (Proverbs 11:30)

We see immediately that the lignum vitae brackets history. It appears at the beginning of history, in the place which God had made for Adam and Eve and, by extension, all of us. It reappears at the end, in the place which God intends for those of us who are his possession to live. Life is God’s intended state for us, and the lignum vitae is a reminder of that. The tree is a suitable reminder of this in its current state. It produces a hard, long-lasting wood which has been used in a wide variety of applications, sometimes as an alternative to metals. It takes a long time to grow. That’s one reason why it can be hard to find in our transient urbanisations. For those with the patience to grow it, it can be rewarding: it produces an attractive blue flower, is not a "messy" tree to have around, and it is regarded as a "showy" tree for landscaping purposes.

Unfortunately the lignum vitae has had a hard history in South Florida with the coming of large populations. It is an endangered tree. Its most famous habitat, the Lignumvitae Key, is protected. Such a state is a reminder that God created a paradise in South Florida, but man has largely ruined it, and not only from an environmental standpoint as well. In addition to the damage to the surroundings, living in South Florida is a sure cure for universalism, reminding one that, if there’s a default option in eternity, it’s not heaven.

Below: location of the Lignumvitae Key, near Islamorada.

So is the lignum vitae the tree of life that Adam and Eve saw at the start and John saw at the end? We’d like to think so. Some of us who are rooted in South Florida–and, of course, our counterparts to the south, where it is the national tree of the Bahamas, for example–would like to think that the place we call home is a reflection of the final place that God has prepared for us, one where the stain of human sin is washed away and we can hear the following: "’See! the Tabernacle of God is set up among men. God will dwell among them, and they will be his Peoples, and God himself will be among them, and he will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, nor will there be any more grief or crying or pain. The old order has passed away.’" (Revelation 21:3-4)

The only part that the lignum vitae doesn’t match up with its heavenly rendition is the matter of the fruit. Surely being planted next to the River of Life will generate that. So when you see the lignum vitae, think in terms of this being the tree you will see once again if you make it to heaven.

If you want to see the tree again, click here

Bill Clinton: Too Much Like a Union Meeting

Bill Clinton’s performance in his interview with Chris Wallace reminded me too much of some of the things I used to see during union meetings in my old family business. All too often, when the grievance filed didn’t have the merit they thought it had, at least one on the committee would blow up in front of us.

Clinton is a product of a "working man’s" background in Arkansas. I am too close to this for my own good; not too far north of where he grew up, my grandfather worked for the railroad for 44 years. I know a hothead when I see one, and watching him berate Chris Wallace I saw one who knew he was in trouble and whose only hope was to turn the tables by shoving emotion into Wallace’s face.

Back in the 1970’s my father attempted to fire one of his "hotheads" but lost in arbitration, in part because the aribtrator marked the grievant as a "sturdy yeoman." But when you’ve got a little of that Celtic "sturdy yeoman" in you, it’s hard to romanticise it. Moreover our "yeoman’s" basic problem was that he was running from God; if he had (and eventually did) put God first, many of the problems we had with him–and his own, really–would have been solved.

If we’ve advanced as far as we claim we have in this time of ours, we need to see Clinton for what he is and deal with him accordingly.

Anglicans after Kigali: Facing the Inevitable

The call from the “Global South” Anglican primates for a separate chuch for conservatives in the Episcopal Church is not to everyone’s taste, but it is inevitable.

It’s taken a lot of “Anglican Fudge”–to say nothing about institutional loyalty–for conservatives to remain in the Episcopal Church as long as they have. But the time has come to face reality, as we noted last summer in our piece The Communion of One. The Global South primates have done just that. It is not as easy as it looks to an outsider–and will be even more complicated if it’s applied to a state church like the Church of England–but there’s no other way out.

And the liberals? Since they have made church pointless, perhaps they should go out and celebrate the Fall Equinox with their pagan friends.

The Colonies are Actually Good for Something

Any American who has dealt with a British “cousin” (for some of us, at least) has sooner or later detected a note of condesension about those poor rude Americans in the “colonies.” Sometimes this condesension is justified, sometimes not.

It is with some amusement, then, that we discovered that the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Stevington, Bedforshire (photo below), has a link to our popular 1662 Book of Common Prayer page. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that any entity in the Church of England has done this, although we have had links from American Anglican churches of various kinds for some time.

St. Mary the Virgin Church, Stevington

The reason for this is rather unique. We’re used the the idea that copyrights expire, although pressure from Disney keeps forcing Congress to move the goalposts. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, however, is published by privilege of the Crown, which is the way books were legally published in European countries before the advent of copyright (and free speech, in many cases.) So the “copyright” of the book is in perpetuity within the United Kingdom. The Church of England is working on posting the 1662 book, but it’s in HTML, which isn’t very convenient for printing out.

1662 Book of Common PrayerSo this Church of England parish is forced to rely on a site outside of the UK–in this case, in the “colonies” (literally in this case, it’s one of the original 13)–to enable their parishoners and others to obtain a free download of this magnificent work. (They probably liked the York Minster photo on the front, too.)

We want to extend our thanks to St. Mary the Virgin parish for linking to our site. In addition to helping make the 1662 prayer book more accessible, it constitutes an admission that we in the “colonies” are really useful to the “old country” after all.

So What are You Going to do About It?

Earlier this year, my wife and I got a call from an old friend who was passing through town. He wanted to meet with us, so we met him at a restaurant. He came with his wife and daughter.

Things were pleasant enough until he decided to do what he liked to do best: spring “the controversial topic” on us. In this case, his topic was that he didn’t like the fact that a minister we supported entered into a “protocol” of common agreement with a group of Roman Catholics. It didn’t matter that he had never read this protocol, nor did he understand that it was not with the Catholic Church directly. It was evil, we were wrong in supporting anyone who did like this, and we should cease and desist at once.

Needless to say, we were not happy with this assault, especially in view of the fact that we were paying for his dinner. He went on in a classically Protestant anti-Catholic vein for some time. I tired of this and finally confronted him with the question: “What are you going to do about it?” i.e., winning Catholics to Christ.

His answer? He was transporting his family to a small island, renting a plot of land (at a below market rate) out on a point where his daughter could pursue her equestrian interests, and minister to the largely Catholic population from there. Needless to say, we were underwhelmed by this idea.

Visitors to this site know that the raw anti-Catholicism exhibited by our friend isn’t what I do. Having actually been there–and I resent being told about Roman Catholicism by those who haven’t–I certainly disagree with many things the Roman Catholic Church teaches and does, especially as it relates to the nature of the church. And I actually have read this “protocol” and have made a response to it. But the whole idea that people cannot be Christians and Catholics at the same time flies in the face of experience, if nothing else. For me, my years as a Roman Catholic were the spiritual experience of a lifetime, and the main reason why I left was because the Church was unwilling to cultivate the seed she had planted in me.

But there is another issue here: the issue of action. My friend had strong beliefs on the subject, and was more than willing to try to make my wife and I feel guilty about what what we were doing. But the key issue is this: since he thinks that Roman Catholics are going to hell, what was he planning to do to prevent it? The obvious answer was to put in motion a plan to win them. And this guy is an effective soul winner when he puts his mind to it. But to make the results of such an effort really count, you need to target a mission field on the one end and to have a place to disciple people you win on the other. And, looking at his proposed plan, he had neither. That’s why we were underwhelmed.

There are a lot of people out there that are full of talk. (Maybe you’re thinking this site is one of them!) This is true in all fields of endeavour. In this case it’s a ministry, but we have seen this in business and certainly in politics. But when the time comes for an effective plan of action, a lot of the big talkers are nowhere to be found. And many of those who do have a plan of action and are getting results are too busy working their plan to make assaults on the rest of us like our friend did.

So when you see someone come along with a lot of great sounding “good bull” (to use an old Aggie expression) just ask them the question: So what are you going to do about it? The answer will separate those who really “have the goods” from those who simply like to hear the sound of their own voice.

Fighting for Jesus: The Church Militant, American Style

Those of you who follow this site on a regular basis probably realise that ABC’s piece on the North Dakota Bible camp is right up our alley as a topic. So we’ll get right to it.

The first question we need to ask is why American evangelicals use military imagery when they rarely–and we mean rarely–advocate actual violence or revolution. The answer to this question is simple: the military is a popular institution with Christians, thus using military imagery resonates with Christian people. This is especially true with men’s ministries, but we see it pretty frequently with youth ministries as well.

Liberals automatically translate this into evangelicals wanting to overthrow the existing system by force. In this respect, the liberals are thinking further down the road; most evangelicals have not thought out the issue that far, and really don’t want to because they are too respectability conscious. (They read the Bible, too.) We have thought this issue out, and know of people who took it that far.

Short of that, liberals also translate this training into political action. They are on safer ground here. Their idea that evangelical training for young people is “bad for society” is based on the fact that people so trained won’t vote–either with their ballots or their lives–the way liberals would like them to. This is pushing the liberals’ panic button harder than anything else. We can’t see how a true, pluralistic, representative democracy will survive this kind of “management of opinion.”

Finally, as we noted elsewhere, liberals cannot bring themselves to understand the difference between dying for a faith and killing for one. They think that they are synonymous, although any jihadi could explain the difference if they bothered to listen.

The fact is that secular liberalism cannot survive in any other environment than a vacuum. But vacuums tend to fill up, and the left is faced with a stark choice: either they can come to some kind of accomodation with evangelical Christianity, or they can beat that into the ground and then get wiped out by the Islamicists. Or somebody else.

Be Seeing You, Part II

Last year we noted that the British system of tracking cars everywhere they went reminded us of their own 1960’s television show, The Prisoner. It’s only getting worse in the old country: now we have street cameras that shout at people who do things not to the authorities’ taste. In some ways it’s more personalised than the public address system used in The Village. (Rather reminds one of the way the chess pieces were moved around in the episode, “Checkmate.”) The only thing left to do is to install the cameras in people’s homes and to be able to dispatch Rover when things don’t go according to plan.  Be seeing you!

No, Bishop Lipscomb, We Are Not Going to Shut Up

The recent call by Bishop John Lipscomb, Episcopal Bishop of Southwest Florida (a neighbour for the diocese I grew up in,) for a “40 day fast” from blogs will fall on deaf ears here at Positive Infinity.

We don’t claim to be high on the list of Anglican/Episcopal blogs. We do carry Virtue Online’s news feed. And recently, when we expressed the opinion that the Diocese of South Carolina was not acting in its best interests by suing All Saints at Pawley’s Island, we were attacked by “moderate” Episcopalian from California. So we are a problem to somebody.

Perhaps the most incendiary thing we do here is to carry the 1662 and 1928 Books of Common Prayer for download, which make the 1979 one look bad.

So we will continue, working under the assumption that the truth is more important than aesthetic considerations or some kind of imposed unity. After all, “And you find out the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, Positive Infinity New Testament) No one will find out anything as long as those who speak the truth are silent.

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