The Five Lessons of Creation

From Philo Judaeus, On the Creation of the World, LXI:

And in his before mentioned account of the creation of the world, Moses teaches us also many other things, and especially five most beautiful lessons which are superior to all others.

  1. In the first place, for the sake of convicting the atheists, he teaches us that the Deity has a real being and existence. Now, of the atheists, some have only doubted of the existence of God, stating it to be an uncertain thing ; but others, who are more audacious, have taken courage, and asserted positively that there is no such thing; but this is affirmed only by men who have darkened the truth with fabulous inventions.

  2. In the second place he teaches us that God is one; having reference here to the assertors of the polytheistic doctrine men who do not blush to transfer that worst of evil constitutions, ochlocracy, from earth to heaven.

  3. Thirdly, he teaches, as has been already related, that the world was created; by this lesson refuting those who think that it is uncreated and eternal, and who thus attribute no glory to God.

  4. In the fourth place we learn that the world also which was thus created is one, since also the Creator is one, and he,making his creation to resemble himself in its singleness, employed all existing essence in the creation of the universe. For it would not have been complete if it had not been made and composed of all parts which were likewise whole and complete. For there are some persons who believe that there are many worlds, and some who even fancy that they are boundless in extent, being themselves inexperienced and ignorant of the truth of those things of which it is desirable to have a correct knowledge.

  5. The fifth lesson that Moses teaches us is, that God exerts his providence for the benefit of the world. For it follows of necessity that the Creator must always care for that which he has created, just as parents do also care for their children. And he who has learnt this not more by hearing it than by his own understanding, and has impressed on his own soul these marvellous facts which are the subject of so much contention namely, that God has a being and existence, and that he who so exists is really one, and that he has created the world, and that he has created it one as has been stated, having made it like to himself in singleness; and that he exercises a continual care for that which he has created will live a happy and blessed life, stamped with the doctrines of piety and holiness.

I would suggest that you (especially if you’re NEC) read this in light of this piece.

The Geniuses Really Do Commit Suicide…Well, Some of Them

We have some data on the issue:

For the first time reliable data has shown that the suicide rate among people working in creative roles is significantly higher than the national average.

The first-ever study of suicide by profession from the ONS, which covered England in the years from 2011 to 2015, showed that people who work in arts-related jobs are up to four times more likely to commit suicide.

My prep school freshman and sophomore English teacher put my parents off with this:

My parents had a far lower impression of this man, and much of that came from the first parent-teacher conference they went to.  The basic problem (although he wouldn’t put it this way) was that I was insufficiently deconstructionistic to suit his fancy.  Somehow he conveyed this to my parents, who came back with their idea that I was very intelligent and did well elsewhere.  His response: yes, but geniuses commit suicide.

What’s interesting about this study is that the geniuses doing themselves in are in the arts, not the hard sciences.  Had I stuck with the arts, he may well have been right.  But I didn’t, either stick with the arts or commit suicide.

One reason why I shifted into engineering–in addition to the desire for steady meals–was to get away from people such as him.  Doing that, as Robert Frost would say, has made all the difference.  The road is not only better but, on this side of eternity, longer too.

Paul Quinlan: Run Like a Deer

FEL  S-092 (1967)

The ink (printed or handwritten) had barely dried on the Second Vatican Council’s documents when Catholic composers and artists began to write songs for what we call the “old folk Mass” but what was revolutionary then.  Leading the pack (in quantity at least) was Paul Quinlan, S.J., who produced an enormous number of songs that resonated in many Catholic churches during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Most of the songs on this album are drawn from the Psalms, which was a favourite well for Quinlan to draw from.  It’s hard to expect even output from someone as prolific as Quinlan, but some of his songs are very memorable; I know that my group at Texas A&M made good use of “Song of Thanks.”

As far as his style is concerned, it’s a very sparse, mid-60’s folk style.  That will go down well with some people but many who came after him performed his work in a richer style.  An interesting comparison can be made with his “Glory to God,” which appears (albeit in rehearsal mode) on this recording.

As the 1970’s wore on and NALR’s productions slowly came to dominate the folk Mass scene, much of Quinlan’s work fell by the wayside.  Today of course we have the #straightouttairondale people who ban the folk Mass altogether, but this album is a nice reminder of what people can do when they start with a “clean slate.”

The songs:

  1. Lord You See Me (Ps 139)
  2. Run Like A Dear (Ps 11)
  3. Glory To God (Ps 122)
  4. O Praise The Lord (Ps 150)
  5. Glory To The Father (Ps 92)
  6. God Arises (Ps 68)
  7. Clap Your Hands (Ps 47)
  8. The Lord Is My Shepherd (Ps 23)
  9. Not To Us O Lord (Ps 115)
  10. Come Let Us Sing (Ps 95)
  11. Song Of Thanks (Ps 118)
  12. Father Bless This Work (Jn 17)
  13. Halay! When To God I Send A Plea (Ps 4)

DL

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The EU Drives Swedes to Drink

Literally, it has gone up significantly since joining the undemocratic, Procrustean experiment:

“Sweden’s alcohol policy is more liberal than 25 years ago, and consumption is 20-25 per cent higher than before we joined the EU.”

And this, mind you, with all the tee-totaling Muslim immigrants…

I saw this in action because Finland also has serious alcohol restrictions.  In 1988, during my first visit to what was then Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) there were many drunk Finns wandering around the place.  “They come to drink,” my representative told me, because of the enormous price differential between Finland and the then-Soviet Union.

I’ve attempted to show (with hostile reaction) that the Scots-Irish church’s hard push for total abstinence comes from that group’s penchant for binge drinking.  Obviously the Swedes, opposite of the Scots-Irish in many ways, take the same view, in a secular framework.  But with all the boozers across the Baltic, it’s a hard “red line” to draw.

The increased alcohol consumption may also be an explanation for the Swedes’ liberal policies towards Middle Eastern immigrants…but I digress.

Filet-o-Fish, Fast Food’s Gift to Lent

Believe it or not, that’s how it got started:

The 1960s were early days for McDonald’s and Groen was struggling to make ends meet. So he cast around for a new idea, and spotted that another restaurant was pulling his missing Catholic customers in selling fish.

So he put some fried fish in a bun, added cheese and tartar sauce and put it on the menu…By 1965 the Filet-O-Fish had a permanent place on the McDonald’s menu.

I can attest that it’s something that got me through several Lents while at Texas A&M University.  It didn’t hurt that the McDonalds was across the street from the Zachry Engineering Centre, where I spent much of my time studying for my Mechanical Engineering degree.

Reflection: Sounds of Salvation

Reflection RL 310 (1974)

If there’s one genre that’s mostly AWOL from the “Jesus Music” era, it’s prog.  To a great extent that’s still the case; a major exception is this dance troupe, which sets their Christian dance to some very good prog music.  We’ve featured prog on this site (especially this.)  But at the top of the heap, without a doubt, is this masterpiece, from the UK.  It not only sets the standard for what progressive Christian music should sound like; it’s one of the most memorable productions ever undertaken in the era.

Commissioned by the Methodist Church, if their objective was to product a Christian album to appeal to a secular audience, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  It goes from its noisy start to the hard-driving “Overseers” (which is probably what my students think of me) to a visit to Hell in “Many Regrets” to what is one of the nicest musical representations of the new birth in “What’s That I Hear.”  And that’s just the first side.

It’s an album that has to be experienced.  There’s an entire blog (something of a stub) about it.  This posting is based on the conclusion that the “distribution” that has been out there for a long time is a “needle drop” operation; there are also rumours afoot that same operator has passed on.  If this is not the case, let me know; I’d love to point to a full re-release of this monumental work.

The songs:

  1. Montage & Because My Mouth
  2. Jesus Is The Rock & Overseers & Psalm 94
  3. Who Am I
  4. Many Regrets
  5. For An Instant & In The Dark
  6. What’s That I Hear
  7. People I Live With
  8. Love III
  9. Kumbaya & Prayers
  10. What Is It Like, Lord
  11. Lonely
  12. For A Little Freedom
  13. Prayers
  14. Salvation Hymn
  15. Because My Mouth (reprise)

DL

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An Anglican Divine Gets the Point

Growing up at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church was my first exposure for the rector to have an earned doctorate.     That exposure came from Hunsdon Cary, who “oversaw” the beginning of the Church Mouse resale shop and whose relatives got the property boot from Jon Bruno.  This has generally not been the case with the churches I have haunted since that time.

St. Michael’s Church, a charismatic Anglican church in Chattanooga, TN, is graced with the Rev. Dr. C. Bruce Hilbert as a permanent deacon.  Recently Pointwise, a firm in Dallas that specialises in grid generation, featured Bruce on their blog as a user of their software, and congratulations are in order.

But that in turn brings up another point: Bruce’s doctorate is in Computational Engineering, the same as mine.  For those of you who are getting nervous about stuff like this, it’s a relief.  Bruce is one of those Anglican divines who gets the point in every sense of the word, because we all know what happens when church becomes pointless.

Painting Ourselves into a Corner at “The Shack”

If our political chaos isn’t enough to upset everyone, now we have the film version of William Taylor’s The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity.  It’s created a great deal of controversy over its implied universalism, it’s decidedly LDS portrayal of God as three embodied beings, etc.

Personally the heart of the matter centres around the work’s theodicy.  I covered the same ground back in January in my piece on Bart Campolo, where I took a swipe at Evangelical Christianity’s lame attempt to “solve” this problem.  In that epic, Campolo’s critical moment with God came after a hard bicycle accident.  As the NYT pointed out, Campolo had been raised in world where “his religion told him that a benevolent God controlled every last thing that happens on earth.”  When things didn’t turn out as he had been led to believe, he bailed.

Fortunately, the secular side of my upbringing immunised me from this kind of thinking:

For me personally, it’s an entirely different ball game.  If I had ever asked the question at home  (and I can’t recall I ever did) “Why do bad things happen to good people,” the answer I probably would have gotten was, “So what? You just have to tough it out, and if you can’t, it’s too bad.”  And, as I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, the home I grew up in was anything but an “ideal” Christian home.  The difference between the two is significant.  While Campolo’s concept on the existence of evil focused on God, the one I was presented with focused on me.

Faced with adversity, Campolo left Christianity; Taylor’s response, in effect, is to reinvent Christianity to solve the theodicy problem of Evangelicalism’s own making.  But from my standpoint the reality of life doesn’t justify either one:

But hurdle I did, first because God came to me, and second because I never saw in the Scriptures the idea that this world was going to be perfect, and that eternity was the most important goal and would overshadow the pains of this life.  Eternal life was one the one thing that God could give me that the world could not.  But perhaps that all was because I looked at the Scriptures informed by the secular framework I was raised in.  The theodicy issue, such an obsession with so many, was never a big deal for me.  If these humanists were such great people, why didn’t they solve the problem of evil in the world?

Better answers are called for here, but better answers are in short supply in our culture today.  Evangelicalism has painted itself into a corner on the theodicy issue, and it wants to get out of the shack it needs to do more than just mess the floor up on the way out.

The First Duty of a Christian Preacher

A pithy summary from R. de la Broise, Bossuet and the Bible, 1890, pp. 160-1:

“To preach the word of God, to go hear the word of God,” these are the expressive words of the Christian language.  They neatly outline one of the distinct characteristics of preaching, one of the points which make the genre absolutely proper to Christianity, and nothing else in antiquity corresponds to it.  In the Christian Church, the Bible is the “word of God,” and the preacher is only its herald and interpreter; his first duty is to know it well, to also know well the most established commentaries, and to transmit it without alteration or corruption; his originality, to distribute it a propos, to take from this bottomless treasure that which meets the circumstances and the hearer, to make heard from this divine word justly what is necessary, and from there appropriate applications.

Jack Miffleton: With Skins and Steel

World Library  WLSM-36-SM  (1968)

Jack Miffleton started out at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.  That shouldn’t be strange to regulars on this blog: it was also the starting point of the trio who produced Songs for the Masses.  It’s a pedigree that has largely been forgotten.  And that’s sad; this is a good folk production that needs a revival.

The title wouldn’t pass muster in this obsessive day of ours, but the “skins” part refers to percussion, something that didn’t always pass muster in a day when percussion was thought in some quarters to be secular at best and pagan at worst.  But Miffleton and his musicians make good use of it; the album is reminiscent, more than anything else, of God Unlimited, although some of the pieces echo The Keyhole as well.  There are some very powerful pieces on the album (“Cry Alice.”)  The Mass propers are at a minimum here.

If you’re looking to break out of the #straightouttairondale mould fashionable these days, this is an album you should consider.  The recording is out of distribution but the sheet music is definitely available and can be found here.

My thanks to Dennis for this music.

The songs:

  1. Well, It’s A New Day
  2. The Wind Blows
  3. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
  4. Yours Is The Kingdom
  5. Cry Alice
  6. Alleluia Response
  7. I’m The Good Shepherd
  8. Alle, Alle
  9. Lord, I’ve Come To Your Garden
  10. I Am The Bread
  11. Up To Jerusalem
  12. There Are But Three Things
  13. It Is My Faith
  14. But Then Comes The Morning
  15. I’m Ready To Follow

DL

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Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal

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